Horses and the Planning System

Horses are an important part of the rural economy, but because they are generally not considered to be “agricultural” they often present headaches for planning purposes.

Agriculture is currently defined in Section 336 (1) of The Town and Country Planning Act 1990, although the definition dates further back to the 1940’s. In terms of horses, the key is whether or not they are “creatures for the production of food or used in farming land”.

Therefore, only horses kept for food, which we tend not to consider an option in this country, or for use in farming operations such as ploughing, are considered agricultural animals in planning terms. This means that whilst the use of buildings or structures for agricultural livestock does not require planning permission in the agricultural context, where horses are concerned planning permission would generally be required unless an agricultural use can be proven.

Planning permission for horse use may not be required for:

  • The use or erection of structures within the curtilage of a dwelling house where this is ancillary to the enjoyment of the dwelling house;
  • Use of land for grazing horses only. This is within the definition of agriculture, as grazing animals is included irrespective of the type of animal.

Existing agricultural buildings will therefore need planning permission for change of use or conversion to stables, arenas or tack rooms. Planning permission for car parking and other outdoor activities such as horse walkers, turn out areas, flood lights and gallops will also require planning permission.

On many properties, horse facilities may have been used and established for a number of years so a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) could be submitted.  This effectively confirms the use and could result in the use of the building becoming lawful and immune from enforcement action by the local authority.

Clearly, anyone contemplating diversifying in to equine use or thinking about setting up a new equine business is strongly advised to research the planning issues beforehand.

For further advice on equine related matters, please contact Frank Smith on




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