March 6, 2013

Planning permission for pony paddocks?

We often have clients wishing to buy small parcel of land from the local farmer to keep ponies or horses in, but they often don’t realise that there may be planning issues.

Simply because the appearance of the land or field won’t change, does not necessarily mean that there will be a change of use. If there is a change of use then planning permission will be necessary.

Technically, planning permission would only be required if the local planning authority considered the change to be ‘material’. In this case, the change is from agricultural use to the keeping of horses for recreational purposes.

So is the change ‘material’ when livestock are swapped for horses or ponies?

What does ‘agricultural use’ mean for pony paddocks?

Agricultural use can be best described as:

  • the breeding and keeping of livestock (including livestock kept for the production of food or for use on the land) or
  • the use of land as grazing land.

At first glance, the keeping of horses on the land would appear to include the use of the land as grazing land. However, previous cases have decided that the statutory definition of agriculture did not apply to the breeding and keeping of horses, unless those horses were being used in connection with farming operations, which of course rarely happens today.

This leaves us with ‘the use of land as grazing land’.

If you simply wish to use the land as grazing land, it will be agricultural use and planning permission will not be required, even if the horses are recreational horses. But, on a strict interpretation, the horses should only be on the land for the primary purpose of grazing.

In practical terms, if, as is common, the field or paddock is used for accommodating and exercising the horse or pony, as opposed to providing its sole food source through grazing, or if it receives supplemental food – strictly speaking this would mean planning permission would be required.

Structures in the paddock

If you put up field shelters, hard-standings, muck-heaps, stables, tack-rooms etc…, these structures will not enjoy permitted development rights usually associated with agricultural holdings and so a planning permission would be required.

There are of course the ‘moveable’ type of field shelters (often towed around a field by tractor or 4 x 4) which could be treated as a chattel and therefore would not constitute a ‘development’ requiring planning permission. If the shelter is small and is frequently moved around the field or paddock, it should not require planning permission. If there is some sort of hard-standing, and clearly in practise it never moves, then this would suggest a degree of permanence, meaning you would have to apply for planning permission.

In conclusion, we would have to say that in the majority of cases, there is going to be a strong argument that a planning consent would be required, although often this does not happen in cases where a deal is struck with the local farmer.

Whilst planning permission may be considered a faff, if you do get it then not only will you have peace of mind from a planning enforcement point of view but it could also increase the value of the land and perhaps more importantly, increase the marriage value if the field or paddock in question either adjoins or is in close proximity to your house.

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  • Jonathan Warrington says:

    I read with interest, if not concern that you suggest that something ‘moveable’ is a chattel exempt from planning permission.
    Having read the Judgement in the Wooley Chickens case, my interpretation was that the Judge found nothing in legislation that makes ‘moveable’ objects chattels by default but found that planning legislation refers and concerns itself with building and structures to which it is a matter of degree whether an object is such.
    My interpretation is a caravan genuinely stored in a field is a chattel, whereas one used as a tack room or for storage is a building and so requires permission as it would not be exempt as an agriculture use in connection with the land.
    I have recently had a ‘debate’ with my local authority who have never got back when I explained the law to them, regarding a field shelter.
    As you pointed out, horses, when in numbers that the land can primarily support them, are grazing animals exempt from planning . Likewise, a field shelter (and not an elaborate structure beyond an animal shelter) is exempt from planning for the grazing animals as this is an agricultural use in connection with the land.
    However, if the grazing animals leave the land then the structure must be removed. In here lies the myth that such structures should be ‘temporary’.
    In my case, the columns supporting the roof are brick and mortar and the floor is stoned. This seems to have triggered a myth that the ‘permanence’ of my field shelter requires permission but that is not true.
    Also the size has raised eyebrows, it is 8m x 4m, however it straddles a fence line so that the two horse can shelter together in their neighbouring paddocks. I would argue that as my land can support 5 ‘grazing’ horses in individual paddocks, then 5 shelters are allowed, ‘detached’ or ‘semi-detached’.
    As for riding in the field, as I have done it for 10 years I don’t need permission, however, I would say that the riding in the field is an incidental use exempt from permission in any event.
    A lot of people recommend asking the Local Authority for advice but my experience is they don’t really understand the law and so if they write and say ‘yes’ go ahead but of they say ‘no’ seek further advice.
    So finally, my caravan, genuinely stored in my field, is a chattel exempt from planning permission and the mere storage of tack and bits and pieces in it when I am not on holiday is an incidental use exempt from permission.
    The things is; its not what you do – its what you ‘say’ you do!

  • Andrea armour says:

    What if I wanted to have a dog day care business on paddock land, what would I need then?

    Thank you

    • Angus Williams says:

      Thanks for the comment. If one assumes the paddock land to which you refer is actually agricultural land and you are looking to use this land as part of your commercial venture, namely the dog day care business (as obviously I do not have the exact details) then I believe you would require planning permission, as this would be appear to be a material change of use. I would therefore recommend that you instruct a suitably qualified planning consultant to advise you on what is required and the likelihood of a consent being forthcoming. I hope you find that useful.

  • Emily Davis says:

    Being able to differentiate between when planning permission is required and when is the land okay for grazing without planning permission is difficult. The blog made it clearer and easier to understand.