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Yorkshire Dales farmers fight 4x4 “fashion” taxes

[Tuesday 06 May 2008]

THE Country Land and Business Association whose members live in some of the most rugged countryside in Britain are furious that their 4x4 vehicles are being equated for road-tax purposes with so-called “Chelsea tractors.”

People who work the land in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, where tough off-road vehicles are a basic tool, are suffering because of a city-based “fashion statement,” says Douglas Chalmers, Northern director of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

there is a world of difference between drivers who need a 4X4 and those who simply want one

Douglas Chalmers - CLA

“No one disputes the environmental effect of the vehicles on our roads but there is a world of difference between drivers who need a 4X4 and those who simply want one. It is high time Government recognised that distinction,” he complained.

“Farmers, forestry workers and those with equine businesses are only some of the people whose vehicles have to be suitable for all conditions, and often these have to double up as the family car. Towing regulations can insist on the use of heavier vehicles.

“We mustn’t forget the other essential users in rural areas either, especially in the caring professions. I for one can remember a dark Sunday evening one January when the county was paralysed by snow and one of our children was ill. We were so relieved when the doctor arrived in his 4x4 vehicle.

“For some rural doctors and nurses a 4x4 means they can reach some of their patients, and other services such as Mountain Rescue simply couldn’t function without these practical vehicles. Mountain Rescue relies entirely on public donations, and it seems crazy to add to their costs through sledgehammer legislation.

"These taxes hit hardest those who most need the vehicles, and who have to continue using them. Essential users are, in effect, subsidising those who buy large vehicles as a fashion statement and that is simply wrong.

“Surely we can devise a system that recognises “essential users” and relieves them from punitive levies designed to tax an entirely different type of owner”.

“In the short term we are looking at ways by which users of essential rural vehicles can identify themselves as such to avoid being judged wrongly by others.”

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