Planning permission for stables on agricultural land

1 February 2021

If you’re planning on keeping horses in any capacity, it’s important to know ahead of time exactly what legal requirements and permissions you need to follow as a horse owner. You’ll need a space to keep your horse or horses at a bare minimum, and if you plan to purchase land to do so, you may require planning permission if that land is agricultural in nature.

We’ve covered all the basics you need to know about horse keeping and building stables, from the situations in which you’ll need to seek permission to what, exactly, horse keeping means. Read on to find out more now:

What does ‘keeping horses’ mean?

Keeping horses is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of different ways in which you can own or care for horses. Owning multiple horses for private purposes and leisure falls under the ‘keeping horses’ category. Equally, riding schools and liveries also fall under this category, as well as racing stables and stud farms.

Essentially, if you own horses for any of the most common reasons, you are considered to be keeping horses. As such, planning permission for agricultural land will apply to you as a horse owner. There are a few cases where horse ownership doesn’t fall under the label of ‘keeping horses’, including if you own fewer horses than there are people in your household or if the horse is kept in your garden or a small stable structure.

When do I need planning permission to keep horses?

If you are changing agricultural land use into land that’s to be used for horses, you will require planning permission to do so. As horses generally are not considered agricultural animals, changing how your land is utilised is considered ‘change of use’. Under this requirement, any structures you build on the land – such as a stable – must have full planning permission before you go ahead with construction.

For landowners, this can be not very clear. If you own your land, it may seem that you should be able to do what you want with it. However, because you are changing how the land is to be used daily, it’s essential that you seek planning permission – especially if your stable or buildings are likely to be used commercially, like a riding school or a livery.

Planning permission for stables doesn’t only apply to land that’s completely free of buildings. If existing barns or external buildings on your agricultural land is to be converted into stables, this also counts as ‘change of use’, and you’ll need to seek permission. Because the building’s purpose is changing from agricultural to a different classification, you’ll need planning permission to begin that conversion.

Why are horses considered separate from other agricultural animals?

Under the Planning Acts, agricultural land use for animals includes dairy farming, keeping livestock and using land for grazing. As keeping horses falls outside this specific usage for animals, change of use permission is required. The only exception is if you are specifically keeping horses as livestock or using the land solely for grazing with no construction of stables. If your horses are fed additional food alongside grazing or kept in a field for exercise, that land is not considered agricultural.

When don’t I need planning permission for stables?

There are very few circumstances where you won’t require a change of use planning permission to build stables on land. If you are keeping a reasonable number of horses compared to your household for personal use only, permission may not be required. If you wish to shelter horses on agricultural land without the need for planning permission, building a temporary structure is another way to provide what your horses need without going through the planning permission process.

What are the categories for change of use permissions?

Change of use permissions for stables generally include any of the following:

  • Residential outdoor space to equestrian space
  • Agricultural land to equestrian space
  • Private use land to land for commercial purposes
  • Livery yard to commercial property (such as a riding school)

Because change of use permissions are generally particular, it’s important to know which specific case applies to your individual needs. Working with a professional service is one way to ensure you have a full understanding of change of use, and our team is always happy to help decipher legal land requirements for you if you get in touch.

What if I already have horses on agricultural land?

If you’re unaware of the planning permission required for keeping horses on agricultural land, you may already have started to use that land for equestrian purposes. Similarly, you could have purchased land with stables or a livery yard on it that doesn’t have the correct permissions in place. The best thing to do if you’ve already been using agricultural land to keep horses is to seek expert advice.

Even if your land has full permissions for a private stable, converting that building into a commercial livery or riding school will also require change of use permissions. A professional service will be able to advise you on the best way forward, and ensure all the correct permissions are in place to build additional buildings, convert barns, and make full use of your land legally.

Are there different kinds of change of use permission?

From the outside, it can be easy to see change of use permission as a one-track service. But there is a wide range of different kinds of change of use permissions to consider. For example, if you use your stables for private leisure purposes daily, you may only need private use permission. But if you hold events for a local riding school on your land once a year, you’ll also need to seek a temporary change of use permission for up to 28 days of the year.

Certain types of horse keeping also won’t fall under conventional classes for land, such as stud farms or racing and rehabilitative stables. In these cases, professional insight from an expert legal team can go a long way towards ensuring you’ve categorised your land correctly and received the right permissions for use.

What happens if my change of use permissions are not approved?

If your local council does not approve your planning permissions, you may be informed that your stables cannot be built on your owned land. This means that the land must remain agricultural. If you’ve already begun construction on equestrian buildings on your property, it may be possible to communicate with your local authority to seek retrospective permission. If you are still refused, you may need to restore the land to its original state.

If you’re thinking of buying land for equestrian purposes, whether for a riding school, livery or any other kind of horse keeping, working with an expert team will help get you where you need to go. With the legal requirements of change of use permissions more complicated than they can appear, seeking an outside perspective can go a long way to ensuring success for your upcoming stable build, allowing you to keep your horses on the best possible land year-round.

For expert legal advice on agricultural or commercial property contact Redkite Solicitors today. Click here

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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