OPINION

Ardagh Glass Ltd v Assessor for Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board

Introduction and Summary

[1] This an appeal against refusal by the local Valuation Appeal Committee to refer a 2010 revaluation appeal to the Lands Tribunal. The subjects are a glass factory. As matters were presented to us, the issue in the appellant’s appeal, or at least the issue which the appellants maintained merited referral to the Tribunal, relates to the value to be attributed to one major item of rateable plant, viz. a glass furnace. We were told about two areas of difference between the appellants and the Assessor in relation to this item. One was the indexation rate. The other was the age and condition allowance appropriate for a furnace with a limited continuing life.

[2] We have decided to refuse this appeal because, on the information available, there was no dispute at all about the methodology of valuation of this item and as far as we could see on the materials available to us, the major dispute was a simple factual issue as to the stage reached in the “campaign life” of this furnace. Parties are some way apart about the indexation factor, but in this case at least we were not persuaded that this was likely to be either a major issue or an issue which meets the tests of complexity or technicality.

Parties’ Submissions

[3] Mr Haddow QC appeared on behalf of the appellants at the oral hearing. He spoke to the appellants’ written grounds of appeal. These narrated that the area of disagreement related to the valuation of rateable plant, which formed a substantial part (£298,569) of the Assessor’s valuation (£680,000), the appellants’ figure for plant being £127,203. The major areas of difference related to the appropriate indexation rate and the appropriate allowance for fast depreciating assets such as glass furnaces. So far as indexation was concerned, the appellants did not know what index the assessor had used, but evidence from industry experts and valuation surveyors, covering analysis of many costs, would be required. So far the age and condition allowance was concerned, although the principle had been established in Assessor for Central v United Glass Ltd 1981 SC 389, its application to the particular facts involved complex and highly technical matters. Further, the application of the principle would be particularly difficult “given the unusual nature of glass furnaces”, so that ground (c), as well as grounds (a) and (b) in the Valuation Appeal Committee (Procedure in Appeals under the Valuation Acts) (Scotland) Regulations 1995, was satisfied. Mr Haddow produced a spreadsheet schedule illustrating the plant valuations referred to.

[4] On the Assessor’s behalf, Mr Gill, Advocate, also referred to written Answers and to some calculations showing the Assessor’s position. The differences related to indexation and the stage of the furnace’s ‘campaign life’. The Assessor’s methodology was in line with United Glass. There could not be any complexity Evidence relating to costs analysed in the preparation of indices need not be complex or technical. The basic principles of indexation were well understood by valuation appeal committees and the treatment of the age and expected life of furnaces well within their grasp.

Tribunal’s Consideration

[5] We have to decide this form of appeal as a matter of impression on the materials available to us. In this case, we have the strong impression that the dispute which parties have identified and which the appellants found on does not meet any of the tests of complexity or technicality, or uncertainty or difficulty of application of the law, relied on.

[6] Matching the calculations produced at the hearing by both sides, it does appear clear that the valuation dispute only arises in relation to one of the appellants’ furnaces (“P4 Plant”), and primarily arises from differences in indexation figures and in the allowance for age and condition. The calculations were not easy to reconcile in precise detail but apparently confirmed that the Assessor values this plant at approximately £196,000 (£3,925,881 de-capitalised at 5%) against the appellants’ figure of £22,927, that difference being apparently similar to the overall difference in plant valuations. The parties start from slightly different figures to be up-dated (possibly because of differing analyses of earlier revaluation agreements). The Assessor updates from the previous revaluation at 35%, the appellants at 18%. By far the largest difference, however, arises because the Assessor allows for age and condition by taking seven elevenths of the updated cost, whereas the appellants only take one eleventh.

[7] So far as we can see, that massive difference arises because the Assessor has proceeded on the basis that refurbishment of this furnace is not due until 2016, so that it had at the ‘physical as at’ date in 2010 7 out of an 11 year life remaining, whereas the appellants take the date of refurbishment as 2011, giving it, at the same date and following exactly the same method, only one year of its “campaign life” remaining. Each is applying the United Glass decision in the same way and from what we were told we simply do not see any uncertainty, or difficulty of application in this case, of the law. It looks as if there may be no more than a simple disagreement of fact accounting for almost the entire difference between the parties.

[8] There may possibly be more to this difference than we (or possibly the Assessor), realise, but we have not been pointed to anything more. Comparing the grounds of appeal with the Assessor’s Answers, it is just possible that there is some more basic misunderstanding between the parties, as the appellants apparently thought that one of the two furnaces at the subjects, being about to go out of use, had only had a nominal value attributed, something of which the Assessor appeared unaware. At all events, we have not been persuaded, as a matter of impression, that this is a dispute which raises any complexity or high degree of technicality in any factual or opinion evidence.

[9] The other difference is between the Assessor’s 35% and the appellants’ 18% indexation figures. We accept that in some industrial valuations, where indexation of costs of a large variety of items may be involved, consideration of competing views on indexing of costs might involve complexity. In this case, however, the dispute relates to one particular type of plant. The appellants’ explanation of the possible complexity of this issue seemed to us somewhat theoretical. Again as a matter of impression, we are not persuaded in this case that it is a particularly significant, or complex or highly technical, issue.


Certified a true copy of the statement of reasons for the decision of the Lands Tribunal for Scotland intimated to parties on 13 November 2013

Neil M Tainsh – Clerk to the Tribunal