Horse Sport Ireland interim CEO James Kennedy held a meeting in Kildare recently with representatives from A.I.R.E (Association of Irish Riding Establishments) and Michael Grassick, CEO of The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, to discuss the hugely negative impact the current commercial rates system is having on the equestrian industry in Ireland.
Riding centres and training yards have reported huge increases in rates charged this year and it is feared that unless urgent action is taken, many equestrian businesses will be forced to close, leading to job losses and the loss of valuable amenities to the general public.
James Kennedy said:
The current system is simply unworkable. It is unrealistic to expect a riding school to have their arenas, stables, concrete parking areas etc, rated in the same way as an office space which could have a massive turnover in comparison. Riding centres are for many children their first introduction to equestrianism and is the seeding ground for potential international riders, Olympians, jockeys, grooms and thousands of riders connected with pony clubs across Ireland. Riding centres are involved in therapeutic riding and offer great assistance to special needs children and adults on a weekly basis. To lose a centre providing this opportunity is a terrible shame for any community
One possible solution discussed at the meeting was that riding centres, livery and training yards should be considered as agricultural rather than leisure for rating purposes
Rita Dunne, Vice Chairman of AIRE said:
“The running of a riding school involves using farm animals and participants have the same tasks as the farmer, caring for, housing, feeding and waste disposal of animals. High rate charges have already led to the closure of many equestrian businesses and if something is not done urgently many more centres will close. Some equestrian businesses have received notification of their fees being doubled and trebled from previous years. Agricultural buildings should not be rated the same as commercial buildings. Many indoor arenas are only used two or three hours on a daily basis. Stabling is used for horse welfare and good grass management, if knocked down animals would suffer yet all stables are rated. Hardcore car parks are also eligible for rating, its simply unaffordable.”
James Kennedy added:
“Rating is inconsistent across Ireland with different fees being applied depending on which county you are in. Rates should be applied on an income less expenses basis thus providing a fairer system all round. The riding school is a major force in the rural community, offering children sporting facilities. This needs to be recognised by the Valuation Office and County Councils responsible for imposing a punitive and inconsistent rating system on an agricultural based enterprise. We need to put forward a united front and look for a fairer system for all involved.”