It’s the dream of many horse owners – to own their own paddock. But how many realise that planning permission may be needed. You purchase a paddock off a local farmer intending to keep your horse on it, but the field has previously been used for grazing cattle and sheep. If you use the field to house, graze and exercise your horse, will you need to seek planning permission? The answer is yes.

Agricultural or Recreational land?

If you intend to use the field only as grazing land it will be regarded as for agricultural use and planning permission will not be required (even if the horses are recreational horses). However, the horses must only be on the land for the primary purpose of grazing. If the horses are given supplemental feed (i.e. hay or hard feed) and kept in the field for exercise and accommodation then the predominant use of the land is not regarded as agricultural and planning permission will be required.

In determining the use of the field the local planning authority will look at factors such as:

  • Whether the land will be used permanently for horses
  • Whether there will be any related structures in the land such as field shelters and jumps
  • Whether the horses will be fed primarily from grazing or from imported foods
  • Whether the land will be used as a recreational and/or exercise area.

When it comes to structures such as stables, field shelters and manèges, planning permission will almost always be required. Fortunately, most local planning authorities accept that equestrian use requires a countryside location and are not generally opposed to them in principle, although the details of siting and appearance of stables and manèges, might be the subject of debate.