Fife Council Assessor v Hall Construction Services Ltd [2017] CSIH 71 (Scotland)

Hall operated an open cast coal mine near Kirkcaldy, Fife. The coal was exhausted in 2015, at which point extraction stopped. The last of the coal was exported from the site in 2016.

Hall sought revaluation of the mine on the basis that the exhaustion of coal in 2015 was a material change of circumstances. The assessor argued that the change of circumstances only took place once the last of the coal was exported in 2016. This made a difference of around £137,000 in the rateable value.

Hall were successful before the Valuation Appeal Committee. The assessor appealed to the Lands Valuation Appeal Court, which again found in favour of Hall.

The Court considered the meaning of a material change of circumstances – the key test for appealing a valuation. They found that variations in the output of a mine would not normally be a material change. The same principle applies to other premises where the value is based on output. Likewise with retail premises, the ordinary ebb and flow of business does not justify a revaluation. However, the exhaustion of extractable coal was a fundamental change to the mine. Output could never again increase, and the circumstances had materially changed.

Key points

  • While every case depends on its facts, this gives a useful insight into the court's approach to the material change of circumstances test.
  • Occupiers should consider whether their premises have been appropriately valued - there is scope for substantial savings where circumstances have changed; not just after the regular revaluations.
  • A number of issues in this case were settled in pre-litigation discussions with the assessor, rather than being decided by the Court – appealing a valuation does not necessarily mean committing to the costs of litigation.