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Vtesse appeal on business rates goes to court

Vtesse Networks has appealed a Lands Tribunal decision to uphold a 2003 Valuation Office assessment of the rateable value of its optical fibre networks.

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Vtesse Networks has appealed a Lands Tribunal decision to uphold a 2003 Valuation Office assessment of the rateable value of its optical fibre networks.

The appeal, which was heard in the Court of Appeal (civil division) this week, closed after argument and a late appeal from Christopher Vadja QC, counsel for HM Revenue & Customs, not to allow Nicholas Green QC, counsel for Vtesse, to bring forward fresh evidence.

Arguing before Lord Justices Sedley, Lloyd and Sullivan, Green said officers for the Valuation Office, which decides rateable values, had erred by not disaggregating BT's costs to establish the precise market value of BT optical fibres.

This was done on a "daily basis" by Ofcom in establishing costs for BT's infrastructure to set regulated prices for services such as those run by Openreach, he said.

Arguing for the Valuation Office, Vadja said the court should consider itself bound by the view of a European court that a disaggregated calculation of BT's costs presented by Vtesse was unhelpful.

Green referred to an Ofcom breakdown of BT's costs prepared in 2008 that showed that it was possible to get a very fine-grained insight into the cost of fibre. He agreed with the judges that Vtesse sought "equity" between itself and BT in arriving at their respective rateable values.

Vadja said the European Court had upheld the view that BT's network was much larger and more complicated than Vtesse's so they could not be compared directly.

A decision is expected early next year.


Photo courtesy of flakeparadigm/Flickr

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