The decision of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) in St John’s Senior School v Jackson (VO) (2019) UKUT 0359 (LC) concerns the striking out of an appeal made against a rating assessment. In 2011 agents instructed by St John’s Senior School, Enfield, made an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) against the school’s rating assessment. This appeal was listed for hearing by the VTE but then postponed. By the time the appeal was re-listed for hearing, the original agent was no longer instructed and the notice of appeal was sent to the ratepayer. The notice of appeal contained directions that the appellant ratepayer should lodge a statement of case, in advance of the new hearing date. No such statement was lodged by the ratepayer, or on its behalf, and the result of this was that the VTE automatically struck out the appeal in November 2014.
The ratepayer’s new agent made an application to the VTE in 2018 that the appeal should be reinstated, because it should have been stayed in 2014, pending outstanding lead case appeals in respect of this type of property, and should not have been listed for hearing at that time. The VTE refused to reinstate the appeal because, it said, other appeals of this type had not been stayed, and because of the long delay in applying for reinstatement. The ratepayer appealed to the Upper Tribunal against that refusal.
The Upper Tribunal found that the VTE, in considering the application to reinstate the appeal, had failed to apply the necessary tests which were those set out in Denton v TH White Ltd (2014) and approved by the Upper Tribunal in Simpsons Malt Ltd v Jones (VO) (2017). Whilst the breach (failure to serve a statement of case) was a serious one, there was no evidence to show whether or not there was good reason for the breach, nor who was responsible for it. Although the delay in making application for reinstatement was a considerable one, it appeared that, when the original agent dropped out of the proceedings, the ratepayer was left with no information regarding the appeal. It also appeared that other appeals in respect of similar properties had been stayed pending litigation in the Goodwyn School case. Because it is important to ensure that the rating list is maintained correctly, the proper course of action was to reinstate the appeal. The Upper Tribunal ordered that the appeal be reinstated and restored to the VTE for consideration.
The Upper Tribunal’s decision in this case represents an orthodox application of the principles set out in its decision in Simpsons Malt, but applied to unusual circumstances where there had been a very long delay in applying to reinstate the original appeal. The importance of maintaining an accurate rating list was sufficient to overcome concerns regarding that delay.