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Do I need planning permission to graze horses?

View profile for Amy Clarkson
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On the face of it, using a field to keep horses is no different to keeping sheep or cattle in the field, so surely planning permission would not be required to use it for equine purposes.

However, keeping horses on the land may be seen as a material change in use of the land under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Not only does this mean that planning permission is required but it can also have wider implications, for example in relation to tax consequences. If you have planning permission for stables on agricultural land but want to graze your horses as well, it might be worth speaking to a specialist agricultural lawyer.

Planning rules for grazing horses

If the land is to be used for grazing horses only, then planning permission should not be required, as the use will continue to be agricultural in nature. A field shelter should also permitted, provided that it is not permanently fixed to the ground, it must be easily moveable, it must allow the animals free access in and out i.e. no stable doors/barriers and have no water or electricity connections.

If you need to put down a base underneath the shelter, such as a concrete base, it is likely to amount to a more permanent structure, which is likely to result in planning permission.

However, if you intend to supplement the feed at all, for example in the form of hay, straw, horse nuts etc. then it would amount to “keeping” ponies, as opposed to just “grazing”. This would then amount to a material change of use and planning permission is likely to be required.

Similarly, if you want to exercise horses on the land, or provide permanent stables, it would also indicate that the predominant use of the land is no longer agricultural, which again means that planning permission is required.

Allowing other horse users on your land

This is also an important issue for landowners to consider when they wish to allow other horse owners to use their land. Not only must landowners ensure they are complying with planning legislation, they should also be careful to make sure the arrangement is correctly documented in writing in the correct legal format. For example, land can be let under a Licence, a Farm Business Tenancy or a Commercial Tenancy and it depends how the land is actually being used as to which agreement would be the right one to use.

Understanding the nature of the arrangement is vital because it has an impact on the rights and responsibilities of each party but perhaps more importantly, it also has implications on how easy it is to regain possession of the land, as well as tax consequences.

Therefore, if you currently use, or are intending to use, some land for equine purposes, it is important to obtain advice at an early stage to ascertain the various possible implications.

If you have any concerns regarding the use of your land and require further information, please contact our dedicated Agricultural Team at our Malton office on 01653 600070, who will be happy to help and discuss this further with you.