Angel of the North

News - 08/08/2022

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums win landmark business rates case

The ruling could result in significant savings for many museums across England and Wales.

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Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, advised by our Business Rates team, has secured a landmark ruling over the rateable value of three of its venues. Shipley Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, and South Shields Museum & Art Gallery have secured five-and-six figure reductions in their rateable values. 

The Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has dismissed a bid by the Valuation Office Agency (“VOA”) to reflect the social value those institutions provide to the local area within their rateable value. 

That judgement, made by the Upper Tribunal, ruled that the museum’s rateable value could not be based upon the socio-economic benefits that the museums provide as that benefit is to the community and not to the museum operator, nor is it possible to quantify the social value to the local authority of that public benefit. Thus, it was determined, these institutions should not be penalised with large rates bills for providing benefits to the local community. 

The victory will see the museum’s rateable value reduced to nominal figures, with substantial backdated and future savings. 

Overall Results of the Appeals


Original Rateable Value

New Rateable Value

Shipley Art Gallery



Laing Art Gallery



South Shields Museum & Gallery




The decision should have far-reaching implications for the way museums in England and Wales are valued for business rates purposes and could result in significant savings for most museums but especially for loss-making institutions. However, it is likely that to obtain the benefit of reduced Rateable Values museums will need to engage in the appeals process because their Rateable Values will not be reduced automatically.

This decision follows earlier rulings at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, and the Yorkshire Museum, also advised by us.

Colin Hunter, a director in our Leeds office, who acted as the expert witness for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, said: “This is a victory for common sense and drives a coach and horses through the VOA’s assertions of implied value attached to museums. It will come as welcome news to occupiers across the cultural and heritage sectors and offers much-needed clarity.”


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