Victory in rates battle as shed eligible for full relief

Eric Sim and Geoff O'Connell in Belford Homing Societty shed.
Eric Sim and Geoff O'Connell in Belford Homing Societty shed.

Pigeon fanciers who feared their rates battle had reared its head again after five years have had a swift victory this time around.

Last week, the Gazette reported that the Belford Homing Society had been sent a rates bill for its shed for the first time since 2007, when it sparked national media headlines.

Then, the argument focused on whether the club was eligible for relief under new rules as pigeon racing wasn’t considered a sport.

The battle was won following a letter to the Queen, as patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, and an early day motion in the House of Commons by Sir Alan Beith MP.

And following our article, the county council established that the club was eligible for relief as a ‘small business’.

At last Thursday’s meeting of Belford Parish Council, county councillor Pat Scott said the club could expect a letter from the county saying they will have a 100 per cent business rate reduction.

She said the policy had been changed last year, but implemented only this year, so that a building worth less than £6,000 doesn’t attract business rates.

Coun Geoff O’Connell said: “Well done. I think that’s marvellous.”

And Eric Sim, from the club, received an email from the council confirming that they would receive 100 per cent relief in 2013-14 through the Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) scheme.

However, the note also warns that the levels of SBBR are set to reduce from April 2014, meaning the club may owe a balance of £18.77 based on this year’s charge.

Mr Sim said: “I’m very pleased for now that my local councillor has managed to secure the relief. It remains to be seen what will happen next year.

“We are in the shed for about an hour on a Friday night to ring our birds and that’s it. All but one of the members are retired.”

He also thanked the Gazette for its support.

l For more news from Belford Parish Council, turn to Page 30.