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Horses and the UK planning system

26 October 2012

Horses make up an expanding part of the rural economy but, because they are not usually classed as ‘agricultural’, they often present problems for planning purposes.

Defining agriculture

The definition of what is ‘agricultural’ is given in the Town and Country Planning Act. In terms of horses, the key is whether or not they are “creatures for the production of food or used in farming land”.

This means that only horses kept for food (not in this country!) or for use in farming (eg ploughing) are agricultural animals. The consequence is that, where horses are concerned, you will generally need planning permission unless you can prove genuine agricultural use. By contrast, planning permission is not needed for the use of buildings, structures etc for agricultural livestock.

Planning permission

There are two areas where you may not require planning permission. One is where you wish to use or build structures within the curtilage of a dwelling house where the structure is ancillary to the enjoyment of the house. The other is the use of land for grazing, which applies irrespective of the type of animal.

You will need planning consent if you wish to convert, or change the use of, existing agricultural buildings (eg to stables, arenas or tack rooms). Car parking and other outdoor activities such as horse walkers, turn-out areas, floodlit arenas and gallops will also require consent.

If horse facilities have been established on a property for a number of years you could apply for a certificate of lawful existing use or development (CLEUD). This could result in the use of the building becoming lawful and immune from enforcement action by the local authority.

Any farmer or landowner who is thinking of setting up, or diversifying into, some form of equine use needs to consider planning issues in advance.

For further advice on equine-related matters, please speak to our agriculture and estates team.

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Adam Hale BA (Hons), TEP, FALA
Senior associate, solicitor
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