Belfast International Airport wins landmark legal case over rates bill
BELFAST International Airport could be in line for a million pound-plus refund after winning a potentially landmark challenge to its rates revaluation.
It has won an appeal against a hike imposed following development work on its main 32,000 square metres terminal building seven years ago.
And the decision is being seen as setting a precedent for other businesses in Northern Ireland to challenge Land & Property Services (LPS) on their rates revaluations.
In this case, a lands tribunal directed that a £3 million net annual value (NAV) assessment on the airport should be reduced to £2.3 million.
Proceedings centred on a decision reached by a Land & Property Services district valuer in February 2016.
The new valuation took into account Project Phoenix - the major construction work undertaken by Belfast International Airport (BIA) in 2010.
Lawyers representing BIA contended that the new NAV was excessive and incorrect.
Complex arguments focused on the rationale behind the assessment, along with expert opinion by chartered surveyors on either side.
During the case the tribunal compared BIA's net annual value with that of Belfast City Airport.
The panel, which included High Court judge Mr Justice Horner, questioned whether the City Airport's £2 million lower valuation was warranted.
It also held that the respondent's chartered surveyor failed to detail what factors had been included in one of the stages of the valuation process, and the amount allocated to each factor.
Backing BIA's assessment that the NAV should be based on April 2001 economic circumstances, the panel confirmed: "The tribunal therefore allows the appeal and directs that the NAV of BIA in the valuation list be altered to £2,300,000."
Sources close to the case predicted that the verdict, when backdated, will result in a repayment to the Airport in excess of £1m.
A further hearing is scheduled to determine costs of the legal action.
Belfast International Airport managing director Graham Keddie said: "We welcome the decision of the tribunal".