Thinking of buying land for your horses?

  • Posted

Emily Wilson

Chartered Legal Executive


If, like me, you have a horse (or a collection, as you can never just have the one), the dream is to own your own field and do what you want, when you want, with your horses.


You scour the countryside looking for the perfect parcel of land to purchase, usually from a local farmer.  If you are lucky enough, you manage to agree to purchase the land.  Fantastic, it’s actually going to happen.


So you purchase the land, move your horses in, put up stables, and you may even build an arena (why not add floodlights, really useful in the winter months)?  What you may not realise, is that you might not be able to do any of these things without looking into the planning use of the land and potentially contacting the local authority with a view to obtaining planning permission.


If the land has previously been used for agricultural purposes, as is so often the case, then it is likely that the planning use of the land under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“TCPA”) is agricultural.  If land has an agricultural planning use, it can only be used for “horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land), as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes”.  This does not necessarily mean that the land can be used for equestrian purposes without obtaining planning permission for change of use.


There are some instances where horses can fall under agricultural use, however these are limited and include keeping horses for working the land (for ploughing, for example); or grazing without supplementary hay or hard feed.  If you ride your horses, or even rug them or feed them hard feed or hay, then the use will be classed as equestrian and not agricultural.  You will then need to obtain planning permission for change of use to equestrian.


If you want to build stables on the land, or convert an existing agricultural barn on the land into stables, you will also need to obtain planning permission.


A riding arena will require planning permission, and potentially any floodlights that you may want to install.


There are some situations where you may not need planning permission to build stables on land.  For example, if you are keeping a reasonable number of horses compared to your household for personal use only on garden or curtilage land.  You may also be able to have a mobile field shelter on the land without the requirement for planning permission, if the shelter meets various criteria (such as it being temporary, light-weight and moveable etc).

So, it is important to establish the current planning use of the land before you purchase as you may first need to obtain planning permission for change of use to equestrian purposes if the land is currently classed as any other use, before you move your horses onto the land and start living the dream – you don’t want to be handed an enforcement notice.


If you are unsure as to whether planning permission is required, your local planning authority should be able to provide you with guidance