Posted On / 24.05.2022

The do's and don'ts of buying land for horses

It is without a doubt, every equestrian owners dream to own their own land to keep their horses on.  This is a big investment, and the simple solution is to buy bare land, erect your own stables / field shelter, construct an outdoor arena or even build your own mini cross-country course on your land.  But if you do not take specialist advice before doing so, it could prove costly, and you may find that you are unable to do what you want to do with the land. As agricultural law specialist, Tracy Neal explains. 

Before you put in your offer or place a bid at auction there are a few factors you should first consider.

  1. Does the land have planning permission for the intended use?

    If you are merely using the land to graze your horse then you do not need change of use from agriculture to equestrian as the grazing of horses are deemed to be ‘agriculture’ under the section 335 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) (“1990 Act”).  If you then decide to rug your horse, or to feed it hay, then the act of doing so means that the use of the land has changed from agriculture to equestrian.  Planning permission would be required in these circumstances.

  2. Are there stables or a field shelter already on the land?

    Mobile field shelters i.e. those mounted on skids which can be easily moved, do not generally require planning permission as it is considered as being ancillary to grazing and is likely to fall under permitted development.  It is worth noting that permitted development is subject to limitations as to location, height and size.  Planning permission will be required if the field shelter is incapable of being moved or is placed on a hard standing.

    It is worth remembering that if you erect a mobile field shelter on agricultural land this would infer the keeping, not just grazing, of horses on the land therefore planning permission for change of use would be required. 

    During the conveyancing process Battens would look carefully as to what, if any, permissions are in place in respect of the land.   If planning permission has not been sought by the seller a statutory declaration as to the use and occupation of the land would be required – backed up by indemnity insurance.  This does not, however, negate the fact that planning laws have been breached and the necessary consents should be sought.

  3. Can enforcement notice be taken if there are not the correct planning permissions in place?

    The simple answer is yes.  Enforcement action can be taken by the local planning authority if there is a suspected breach.

    The 1990 Act provides that time limits shall apply for local planning authorities to take enforcement action for breaches of planning.  No enforcement notice may be taken after a period of four years since stables / static field shelter has been erected and should not be subject to enforcement action.

    It is worth noting that the time limited for a breach of change of use from agriculture to equestrian is ten years. 

    If planning has been breached and the time limits have lapsed an application should be made to the local planning authority for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLUED).

For more information please contract, Tracy Neal, Joint Head of Agriculture & Rural Property 09135 846076 tracy.neal@battens.co.uk