Planning Permission and Keeping Horses.

In recent years development involving horses has become increasingly popular. Farm land and buildings are being sold or let to individuals hoping to use the land and buildings to keep their horses. What many individuals are unaware of is that this material change in use is likely to require planning permission.

So What is Development and What is a Material Change in Use?

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990), planning permission is required for any development (section 57[1], TCPA 1990). Development is defined as the “carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under the land or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land” (section 55[1], TCPA 1990). As such, there is a basic requirement for planning permission to be obtained if there is a material change of use of any buildings or land. However, the term ‘material’ is not defined by the TCPA 1990 and there is a substantial amount of case law on what constitutes a material change in use and what does not.

Some examples of what would constitute a material change of use are set out below:

  1. Use of land or buildings to keep horses for recreational use;
  2. Use of land or buildings to keep horses for commercial use;
  3. The erection of buildings to shelter horses or horsiculture equipment;
  4. The erection of buildings for the purpose of exercising horses.

Agricultural v Recreational

The Court has held that the term in the statutory definition of agriculture referring to the breeding and keeping of livestock does not apply to the breeding and keeping of horses (except in connection with any farming use). Therefore, unless the horses are simply turned out to the land with a view to feeding them from the land, it is likely that planning permission will be required.


You purchase a plot of land from a local farmer intending to keep the family horses on, but the field is currently used by the farmer to graze sheep. If you use the field to house, graze and exercise the horses, will you need to seek planning permission?

Answer: Yes. As the horses will be exercised on the land planning permission is required.

What Happens if you do not Obtain Planning Permission?

Failure to obtain planning permission is commonly known as a ‘planning breach’.

It is likely that a retrospective planning application will have to be submitted if a planning breach has occurred. If this retrospective application fails then the Council can serve an enforcement notice which requires you to put things back to the way they were.

How can we Help?

To avoid the risk of enforcement action you should always seek advice before carrying out any change of use or development. At Lanyon Bowdler we have a team of experienced planning solicitors who would be happy to discuss your proposals and advise on any planning queries you may have.

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