OPINION

Ministry of Defence v Assessor for Fife Council
(Oil & Pipelines Agency: Tanks and Pipeline, Linkswood)

[1] These are two appeals against decisions of the local Valuation Appeal Committee not to refer appeals against 2010 revaluation appeals to the Lands Tribunal.

[2] In each case, the Assessor has now withdrawn opposition to the referrals on the basis of the information now provided by the appellants. As in two earlier appeals involving the same appellants and agents, the applications to the Committee to refer the appeals contained no reasoning whatsoever as to why the cases should be referred. The Assessor’s opposition at that stage, and the Committee’s refusal of the applications, were entirely understandable. We refer again to what we said about this way of proceeding in Ministry of Defence v Grampian Assessor, LTS/VA/2013/291-296, 9 October 2013.

[3] In these appeals, on the basis of the Grounds of Appeal, we had some reservations as to whether referral was appropriate, so we required an oral hearing, notwithstanding the Assessor’s withdrawal of opposition. We wondered whether an oil tank farm and an oil pipeline, being it might be thought not unusual and relatively standard subjects, really presented issues qualifying for referral to the Tribunal. However, having heard submissions by Mr McIver, Advocate, instructed by Messrs GVA Grimley, on behalf of the appellants, we have reached the view in each case that the ‘complexity’ grounds, grounds (a) and (b) in the Valuation Appeal Committee (Procedure in Appeals under the Valuation Acts) (Scotland) Regulations 1995 are satisfied. We can outline our reasons quite briefly.

[4] These subjects serve RAF Leuchars, which is due for closure. In each case, it is suggested that there is complexity, both in relation to matters of fact and matters of opinion, in relation to the use, decommissioning and redundancy, as well as technical details of construction and elements of claimed unremunerative expenditure. The valuation of a similar tank farm, and many oil industry pipelines, have apparently been referred to the Tribunal by agreement with Assessors. Certain specialties of this tank farm and this pipeline were pointed out. We were informed that only a minority of the many Ministry of Defence subjects in Scotland were being referred. We are now satisfied, as indeed Assessors and other Committees have been, that both these appeals qualify for referral on these grounds.

[4] We should mention that we were not particularly impressed by the submission that ground (d) was satisfied: if these are, as represented, specialist defence subjects with particular redundancy and decommissioning issues, it is not immediately obvious why they raise fundamental or general issues likely to be used as precedents. At one point, we were told that the pipeline presented very different issues from oil industry pipelines. We have admitted these appeals on the other grounds.

[5] We understand that these two appeals can be heard together, and we do appreciate, notwithstanding the last paragraph, that the outcome of discussions about the oil industry cases may have some bearing, so we accept the representation made to us that further formal procedure should be delayed until mid-2014.


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