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The Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill is a two-clause government bill which provides an exemption from non-domestic rates for nursery grounds which operate under covered premises. It was introduced into the House of Commons on 23 May 2018, had its second reading on 5 June 2018 and completed its stages in the House of Commons on 10 July 2018. The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 11 July 2018 and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 24 July 2018.

Since at least 1928, agricultural premises have benefitted from a general exemption from non-domestic rates. Prior to a Court of Appeal ruling in 2015, agricultural premises for this purpose were considered to include ‘nursery grounds’, which sow or propagate small plants or crops in their initial stages of growth before selling them on to someone else for growing to maturity. Nursery grounds are distinct from garden centres (even though sometimes called “nurseries”), which sell directly to the public and which will continue to be subject to rates.

In 2015, the Court of Appeal found that treating nursery grounds as exempt from business rates was an incorrect application of the law, if the nursery grounds wholly comprised buildings (for example, polytunnels and glasshouses), as opposed to agricultural land. As a result, non-domestic rates became payable by nursery grounds operating wholly under cover. The Bill would effectively restore the position generally understood to exist before the Court of Appeal judgment whereby such premises are exempt from rates. It also allows any affected business which has paid rates since the judgment to reclaim those amounts.

Throughout its passage in the House of Commons the Bill received support from the Opposition and no amendments were tabled. Some MPs raised the possibility of central government reimbursing local authorities which had to repay rates to businesses, but the Government stated that only a “handful” of businesses had been affected and described the amounts involved as “relatively small”.

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