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If you could show that it was your intention to buy to let, say from letters to your solicitor before the conveyance of the property then this property trading approach by HMRC might well be on shaky ground. Furthermore, were you able to show that after purchase that the letting market was very weak, hence your decision to sell then this would reinforce your case for the gain to be treated as a capital one.
I know of a case where a buy and a sale took place within a month and the tax authorities did not bat an eyelid in the matter.