The Court of Appeal  EWCA Civ 1598 (Mummery LJ, Jacob LJ, Neuberger LJ) has given an important judgment clarifying the scope of the exemption from non-domestic rates for religious buildings.
The Mormon Church had challenged the approach of the Valuation Officer to list (as liable for non-domestic rates) a substantial part of the Preston Mormon Temple complex. The Mormon Church contended that the whole of the complex was exempt from rates under the provisions of paragraph 11 of Schedule 5 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.
In the Lands Tribunal, the President (Mr George Bartlett QC) ordered the trial of a preliminary issue “to what extent are the various buildings on a site of approximately 15 acres at Temple Way, Chorley, Lancashire (“the site”) are to be excluded from the rating list pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 11 Schedule 5 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”).” The President decided the preliminary issue in favour of the Valuation Officer determining that all of the buildings in the Preston Temple complex were ratable with the exception of a chapel hall at which public religious worship takes place which was agreed to be exempt.
The Mormon Church appealed against the decision of the President of the Lands Tribunal and raised a wide range of issues as to the scope of the religious exemption provisions.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the Church’s appeal and upheld the decision and reasoning of the President of the Lands Tribunal in its entirety.
Daniel Kolinsky represented for the Valuation Officer in the Court of Appeal as he did in the Lands Tribunal.