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How to get planning permission for equestrian land

When is keeping a horse on your property fine under permitted development, and when will you need planning permission? Here is your quick guide to the basics of horses and planning

23 January 2024
3 minutes read
Small young girl in french braids and a white and red stripped top holding out both of her hands to the nose of a white and speckled brown horse behind a simple wooden fence on agricultural land in the UK

Have you found yourself considering buying land to keep your horses, or buying horses to keep on your land? Whether it's the horse or the land that came first, you will most likely need to apply for planning permission. 

You may have heard of all the night-mares trying to get planning permission for keeping horses. But there is no need for the long face, as we will take you through the type of planning permission you will need and how to get it.

How are you keeping your horses?

Before determining the type of planning permission necessary to apply for, we first need to narrow down the nature of your horse keeping

You must first answer a few questions:

  • In addition to your horses, will you need related structures? These may include stables, jumps, field shelters and anything else you need to care for your horses.
  • How often are you, or anyone else, going to ride the horses?
  • Are your horses for personal or commercial use? If you get permission for equestrian buildings for personal use, they must never be used for commercial purposes.
  • Is there a field for the horses? Will the field be permanently used for horses, and horses only?
  • How many horses are you going to keep?

Once these answers are stable, we can now move on to determining which planning permission you need.

Brown horse being guided by it's reigns by it's owner leading it back into the stables on a bright and early sunny morning

Different ways to keep your horse

There are many different ways to define having horses. Keeping horses covers a wide range of different ways in which you can care for and own a horse. You will need to apply for a change of use, but there are many different uses under which keeping horses can be classified.

The first question I asked you was which buildings you need for your equestrian land. Will your land be used for keeping horses or just for riding them? This is important to establish early as the outdoor riding area and jumps fall under a separate use class, Use Class F2, to the actual storage of the horses, which is a sui generis (class of its own) use.

The use class of the stables where the horses live depends on the use of the horse. Stables can fall under commercial use, commercial property, such as a riding school, or equestrian space. Private stables and stables for commercially used horses have different use classes, even if they are the same exact building. It is important to correctly identify the use class for your stable as it will determine whether or not you get planning permission. 

One fact that often surprises our clients is that horses are not considered agricultural animals for planning purposes. Even if you own a farm with existing agricultural planning permission, you will need separate permission for the area and building to keep your horses. 

However, there are ways to have your horses on agricultural land. (Yes, I am aware I sound like am contradicting myself).

This is the exact reason I asked what you intended to use your horse for. Agricultural uses include horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock, and all of their ancillary purposes. We must focus on the ancillary purposes, purposes such as grazing. If your horse’s presence on the land is only to graze, and to be ridden or exercised elsewhere, your agricultural planning permission will suffice for Black Beauty’s new home.

Permitted development rights for equestrian land

There is some good news that in some certain circumstances, you may not need planning permission at all to keep your horses. 

While permitted development rights allow you to keep horses, there are many limitations to what you can do with the horse, and how many horses you can keep.

Keeping the horse on the land, as we’ve discussed, means very particular things. In regards to permitted development, keeping horses only includes the storage of horses. To walk them or allow them to graze on the same site will require planning permission.

Permitted development rights allow you to keep as many horses as there are people in a household. As soon as the number of horses outnumbers the people who live there, you will need to apply for planning permission.

Tri-coloured brown, white and black horse grazing on some equestrian land grass by a lake and traditional large dwelling houses with thatched roofs in the distance

Planning permission for equestrian events

Using your land for equestrian events may also be covered under permitted development rights. Short-term equestrian events, such as show jumping, horse racing, dressage, or eventing are all included in your planning rights. 

As long as your events do not last more than 28 days, you may host short-term equestrian events on your property without planning permission. Additionally, all of the event-associated buildings and equestrian-related structures must be removed after every event if you are to host events without planning permission. 

To clarify, any one property has the right to host equestrian events for a total of 28 days per year. Whether you host 28 single-day events or one month-long event, both are covered under your permitted development rights; whereas anything more is not.

With these facts and tips, planning permission for your equestrian land has a better chance of the council saying yay, rather than neigh.

How can Urbanist Architecture help?

Urbanist Architecture is a London-based architecture and planning practice with offices in Greenwich and Belgravia. With a dedicated focus on proven design and planning strategies, we help homeowners, landowners and developers achieve ROI-focused results.

If you would like us to help you with your project for equestrian land, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Claudia Stephens, Planner at Urbanist Architecture
AUTHOR

Claudia Stephens

Claudia is our planner, specialising in green belt developments and other complex planning applications. She provides regulatory research and evidence-based advice, negotiates with local authority planning departments, and keeps us informed of the latest legislation and government guidance.

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