Did the hunebed builders have to pay tax?

Burial monument or commercial storage facility? © Daily Telegraph

A farmer in Devizes Wiltshire, has built the first new ‘hunebed’ in the UK in more than 5,000 years. And now he has been told by the British government’s Valuation Office Agency that it will cost him £5,000 a year in business rates.

Tim Daw created the long barrow on his own land as a burial place for use by Pagans. Church graveyards and burial grounds are usually exempt from business rates, as they are seen as places of worship. However, officials say that the long barrow is a commercial storage facility. As such they say that it is a business property and subject to tax.

The barrow, which took Mr Daw nine months to construct and cost him around £200,000, is about 70 metres long and 6 metres high. He used conventional stone-working techniques and aligned the tomb so that the sun shines down the central chamber on the Winter Solstice. This makes it a popular place of worship with Druids and Pagans.

The monument contains stone chambers with built-in shelves, called niches, where people can place the ashes of their loved ones. The tomb has 340 niches in total, each of which can hold two or three urns. All are now reserved although only 40 are currently occupied at a one-off fee of £1,000. The money goes towards maintenance of the barrow.

Mr Daw said the decision meant that mourners visiting his tomb would now have to “pay to pray”. He also claimed that the agency’s decision discriminated against non-Christian forms of worship. “Describing it as ‘storage’ is demeaning to the families whose loved ones are buried here” he said.

However, Mr Daw has now received a letter from another government department confirming that the long barrow is indeed a place of worship. He has sent this information on to the Valuation Office Agency but is still waiting for a response.

Text                 Alun Harvey

Source             Article by Izzy Lyons in the UK Daily Telegraph



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