Rating Manual section 6 part 3: valuation of all property classes

Section 122: bird sanctuaries

This publication is intended for Valuation Officers. It may contain links to internal resources that are not available through this version.

1. Scope

This Instruction applies to all Bird Sanctuary premises.

2. List description and special category code

  • List description: Bird Sanctuary and Premises
  • Primary Description Code: MX
  • SCAT code: 026, suffix S/G

3. Responsible teams

This is a split class of property with Specialists in each Business Unit valuing the more complex and larger properties.

4. Co-ordination

The Class Co-ordination Team has overall responsibility for the co-ordination of this class.The team are responsible for the approach to and accuracy and consistency of valuations. The team will deliver Practice Notes describing the valuation basis for revaluation and provide advice as necessary during the life of the rating lists. Caseworkers have a responsibility to:

  • follow the advice given at all times
  • not depart from the guidance given on appeals or maintenance work, without approval from the co-ordination team
  • seek advice from the co-ordination team before starting any new work

5.1 Rateability

The hereditament will comprise the bird sanctuary, or nature reserve, including any pools, foreshore, woodland etc with any hides or other buildings situated within the boundaries of the reserve. Where there are no charges made for access, little or no works of improvement and there is free and unrestricted access by the public it is unlikely that the four tenets of rateable occupation will be met and there will not be a rateable hereditament.

5.2 Unit of assessment

The majority of occupiers of bird sanctuaries/nature reserves will be charities. The trading operations will be run by separate, though wholly owned, trading companies set up by the charity for that specific purpose. The charity and trading company are required by law to be separate corporate entities, with an arm’s length agreement between them when one occupies the property of the other. Where the trading company meets the normal rules of rateable occupation for any building or part of a building within the site then a separate hereditament will usually be created.

Where the smaller sites are occupied by an independent charity there is likely to be only limited sales or trading and in such cases there may not be a trading company in existence. Even where a trading company exists it often only occupies a sales stand or café area within a larger reception building; where a separate hereditament cannot be defined then a separate assessment is not required.

To decide whether there should be a separate assessment for a trading company it will be necessary to consider the following questions:

  • is the occupier of the site a charity?
  • does the charity have a separate trading company?
  • does the trading company operate from the site being considered?
  • is the part of the site or building occupied by the trading company capable of definition as a separate assessment (e.g. a shop, a café, an outdoor sales area)?

6. Survey requirements

Bird Sanctuaries should be measured to net internal area (NIA) in accordance with the VOA code of measuring Practice for Rating Purposes.

The survey should include the following information:

  • a site plan showing the full extent of the sanctuary/reserve and the location of any hides;
  • details of access and parking;
  • entry charges including details of any concessionary rates, yearly rates, free admissions;
  • times and days of opening including details of any seasonal closures;
  • details of any other facilities provided such as use for conferences, research facilities, head/regional offices;
  • if the occupation is by a charity details should be obtained of any trading company operating all or part of the property, e.g. shops and restaurants (see paragraph 5.2 above);
  • a brochure for the reserve.

7. Survey capture

In all cases plans and surveys should be stored in the property folder of the Electronic Document Records Management (EDRM) system.

8. Valuation approach

8.1 Rental method

Direct rental evidence of the value of a bird sanctuary is unlikely to be found but there are examples of sites where the land is rented and in such cases the hereditament should be valued by reference to the rent paid, adjusted as appropriate. Smaller sites with few buildings should be valued on the rental method, using such rental evidence that may be available. In the absence of direct rental evidence, a spot figure should be adopted having regard to the rents paid for land under Farm Business Tenancies and the Agricultural Holdings Acts.

8.2 Receipts and expenditure

In the absence of rental evidence, or where there is a site rental for a substantially improved property, and the site is operated with a view to profit, or capable of being operated for profit, it should be assessed using the receipts and expenditure (R&E) method. Where there is a membership scheme, e.g. where RSPB, WWT or Wildlife Trust occupy such properties, the receipts require to be adjusted upwards to reflect members visiting (and therefore not paying on the day). It is considered reasonable to assume that, in the absence of a membership scheme, one third of those who would have visited as members would still visit and pay the admission fee. Guidance on the receipts and expenditure method is contained in Rating Manual: section 4 part 2.

Valuations arrived at using a full R&E valuation should be analysed as a percentage of gross receipts to facilitate comparison with other bird sanctuaries where full accounts are not available.

8.3 Comparative approach

Where full accounts are not available valuations should be as a percentage of Gross Receipts (net of VAT). The appropriate yield should ideally be taken from local comparable evidence but see the relevant Practice Note for further guidance.

9. Valuation support

All valuations should be entered onto the Non-Bulk Server (NBS) under the relevant Scat Code.

Additional support is available through:

*Survaid.

*Class Co-ordination Team for Leisure Attractions.

Practice note: 2017 - bird sanctuaries

1. Market appraisal

Bird Sanctuaries and other similar nature reserves are a diverse class of property. They will range from just an area of land, to land and water, with a wide range of buildings and facilities.

Typical occupiers will include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the various county Wildlife Trusts. The hereditament will usually comprise the nature reserve including all pools, rivers and seashore.

The tenure will vary from site to site, and within the property for the larger sites. There may be a mixture of freeholds, where the site has either been gifted or bought, rented and various forms and levels of management agreement. Many sites will be open to the public for free with little sign of occupation other than perhaps an information board; access will be by public footpath or bridleway - such sites are unlikely to satisfy the tenets of rateable occupation and will not have an assessment. The next level would be a site where there are a number of hides, information boards at any entrances with perhaps some form of payment for non-members by honesty box, for car parking, or at nearby premises; access will be by permanent pathways provided by the organisation concerned. The largest sites, which will generally charge for non-members, will have visitor centres with shop areas and cafes in addition to hides around the reserve; the largest sites such as Slimbridge may also have conference or head/regional office facilities.

Part of the site may be used for forestry or agricultural uses often for the better management of the site, i.e. keeping weed/scrub growth in check, providing the conditions for target species to thrive or attracting/re-establishing species at the site.

Increased media coverage of the natural environment in recent years has served to heighten public interest and as a consequence visits to such properties have shown a steady increase. They are unlikely however to ever achieve the same draw as more participatory leisure attractions.

2. Changes from the last practice note

There are no changes from the broad principles followed for the 2010 Rating Lists and the approach therefore is the same.

3. Ratepayer discussions

None at present.

4. Valuation scheme

Where available, direct rental evidence should be used. This is likely only to be of use for smaller sites with relatively few buildings.

For larger sites where there are fees paid for admission a percentage of receipts should be adopted having regard to the guidance contained within [Rating manual: section 6 part 3 - section 1085 : Leisure Attractions: Practice Note 1 : 2017].(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/rating-manual-section-6-part-3-valuation-of-all-property-classes/section-1085-leisure-attractions)

Practice note: 2010 - bird sanctuaries

1. Co-ordination arrangements

This class is split between Groups and Specialist Rating Units, with SRUs dealing with those over £25,000 RV. Responsibility for effective co-ordination lies with the SRUs.

For further information see Rating Manual: section 6 part 1

The 2010 Special Category Code 026 should be used. As a split class the appropriate suffix letter should either be G or S.

2. Valuation

Direct rental evidence of the value of a bird sanctuary is unlikely to be found but there are examples of sites where the land is rented and in such cases the hereditament should be valued by reference to the rent paid, adjusted as appropriate. Smaller sites with few buildings should be valued on the rental method, using such rental evidence that may be available. In the absence of direct rental evidence, a spot figure should be adopted having regard to the rents paid for land under Farm Business Tenancies and the Agricultural Holdings Acts.

For larger sites where there are fees paid for admission a percentage of receipts should be adopted having regard to the guidance in Rating manual: section 6 part 3 - section 1085: PN1: 2010.

Practice note 1: 2005: Zoo’s and safari parks

1. Co-ordination Arrangements

This class is split between Groups and SRUs, with SRUs dealing with those over £25000 RV. Responsibility for effective co-ordination lies with the SRUs.

For further information see Rating Manual: section 6 part 1.

The 2005 Special Category Code 304 should be used. As a split class the appropriate suffix letter should be either G or S.

2. State of the Industry

Traditional zoos and safari parks have had a difficult time between list AVDs, 1998 and 2003. A significant public dislike of keeping animals in captivity has damaged traditional zoos, and both these and safari parks suffered badly during the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

Generally most zoos and safari parks have shown only marginal increases in receipts over the 5-year period. The exceptions to this trend are those zoos and parks that have diversified into theme and amusement park type activities and have boosted visitor numbers accordingly.

In the year preceding AVD, 1 April 2003, operators have faced substantially increased costs by way of public liability insurance and many would be facing increased capital expenditure to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act coming into force in October 2004.

3. Valuation Guidance

Many of the operators in this class are commercially orientated, and the main approach to valuation should be on the basis of receipts and expenditure (Rating Manual: section 4 part 2 et seq). Wherever possible profit and loss accounts should be considered for the three years preceding the AVD 1 April 2003. Care should be taken with any accounts covering the period of February to September 2001, as many zoos and safari parks suffered a substantial loss of trade due to FMD.

In some cases VOs may find that a full receipt and expenditure valuation produces a NIL divisible balance, or a very low figure. It should be noted, however, that a significant number of hereditaments in this class are registered charities or operated by scientific or research establishments whose aims may not be strictly profit motivated. In such instances, VOs may properly reject the full receipts and expenditure valuation in favour of an approach based upon a percentage of gross receipts. Where this approach was adopted in the 2000 rating list, the percentage adopted usually fell within the range of 6%-8%. For the 2005 rating list, with increased costs in some areas, it may be appropriate to adopt 5%-7% for traditional occupations and up to 8% where diversification has been successful.

As any rental income from concessions provides the operator with a much higher level of profitability it should not be treated in the same way as the gross receipts. Concession income should be valued at 25%-50% depending upon the amount of services or other costs incurred by the landlord.