Airport operators at Europe’s busiest airport are set to discuss a settlement to their recent Group Action with the Valuation Office Agency next week. Operators at Heathrow lodged a collective Group Action earlier this year, seeking “substantial and prolonged reductions” in the business rates that they pay.
Despite the devolved administration in Scotland giving 100% business rates relief to its airports and those businesses providing handling services for scheduled passenger flights, airports across England and Wales continue to be liable for full business rates after the Treasury refused to extend the business rates holiday.
It is understood that the real estate adviser Altus Group are representing more than 70 businesses in and around Heathrow having lodged with the Valuation Office Agency, an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs, 2 separate “group pre challenge review” requests.
The first request is for those operating on the periphery of the airport such as freight and cargo services with settlement discussions scheduled to commence on Monday 7th September.
A further request appertaining to airport let outs for services at Heathrow Airport which covers airline services such as passenger lounges, baggage handling services and engineering bases has also been made.
Group pre challenge requests to The Valuation Office Agency are offered in order to focus discussions on a particular grouping or cluster of properties that share a specific commonality to try and avoid cases having to move forward to the independent Valuation Tribunal and could set a precedent for other regional airports.
Robert Hayton, Head of business rates at Altus Group, said that “The requests are directly related to the substantial physical impact upon the property and its overall physical setting/environment of numerous legislative, policy and associated matters introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic both within the United Kingdom and wider.”
A speedy resolution to the discussions was sought given the perilous state of the aviation industry amid ongoing substantial business rates liabilities with Hayton adding “the impact that coronavirus has had on airports, as well as those businesses operating in and around the sites, are already obvious and grounds exist to support a substantial and prolonged reduction through the business rates system.”
Civil airports across England and Wales are currently faced with business rates bills of £203.49 million for the 2020/21 tax year whilst let outs at those airports also face annual business rates liabilities of £121.96 million according to Altus Group.