A Planning Guide to Horses and Stables


Development involving horses (also referred to as “horsiculture”) can have a negative effect on the appearance of the countryside. With the decline in agricultural jobs an increasing number of small parcels of land are being sold off and purchased by people hoping to keep their horses on these plots, unaware that this is likely to require planning permission. Stables and shelters can be harmful to the appearance of the landscape and jumps, horse boxes and other equipment can be unsightly.

A growing number of farmers are seeking to diversify their activities and commercial equestrian uses such as a livery or riding schools are common options. Alternatively they decide to sell or let farm buildings/land to others to establish a separate business. These uses require planning permission and together with maneges, events, external lighting and high levels of traffic generation can have a greater and more intensive impact on the surrounding area than “hobby horsiculture”.

Additionally, increased use of bridle ways can cause excessive erosion and land can become overgrazed and unsightly.

This guide is intended to clarify the legal position and provide initial advice for anyone intending to use land or buildings for a horse related use.

Planning Permission

The list below is not exhaustive but includes common developments which normally require planning permission:

  • To use land and/or buildings for keeping horses for recreational or commercial purposes.
  • To erect buildings to shelter horses or their provisions.
  • To erect a building(s) in which to exercise horses.
  • To set out a manege (exercise area) or to create other hard surfaces for a similar purpose.
  • To put up lights to illuminate a manege or other area.
  • To station a caravan in a field for use in connection with “horsiculture”.
  • Laying out or surfacing a vehicular access in connection with the keeping of horses.


  1. If the main purpose if the land is for the genuine grazing of horses (i.e. they are being fed off the land rather than by imported food and the land is not being used as a recreational/exercise area) then planning permission may not be needed as this could be considered to be an agricultural use. However, buildings and other structures will still need permission.
  2. Putting up a stable within the curtilage* of a house may in some circumstances not require planning permission provided the horses are kept as pets in association with that house and depending on the size, height and position of the stable in relation to the position of the house/road (including a footpath) and the size of the curtilage.
  3. Mobile field shelters may not need planning permission, depending on their size, construction, its physical attachment to the ground and its intended degree of permanence. In all cases contact us in writing before proceeding

* Curtilage usually means the enclosed area immediately around the house and does not include for instance adjoining fields or paddocks and may not extend to all land in the ownership of the house

Planning Considerations

Where planning permission is required, in considering planning applications the Local Planning Authority will have primary regard to the Development Plan, ie. The Worcestershire County Structure Plan and Wyre Forest District Local Plan which contain policies and provide the framework for dealing with proposals.

Stables (including tack room)

These will normally only be permitted where they are :  

  1. No larger than 3.5m x 3.5m x11m measured externally.
  2. Sited within or immediately adjoining an existing farm building complex or failing that a hedgerow or other landscape feature which affords substantial screening
  3. Provided with a safe highway access, the construction of which is environmentally acceptable
  4. Designed and constructed in good quality appropriate materials such as timber and designed clearly for their intended purpose. Stables with a ‘residential’ appearance will not be allowed.

Commercial Equestrian Uses

The development of commercial uses in rural areas such as riding schools and arenas, stud farms, racing or livery stables will be carefully controlled. Proposals for such uses will be rigorously examined to assess their impact, individually and cumulatively, on the purposes and visual amenity of the countryside especially in the Green Belt and Landscape Protection Areas, and on the local highway network including bridle ways.

Where there is conflict with Development Plan Policy they will not be allowed.

It is always an advantage for such schemes to use existing buildings and put them to a new use rather than building new structures in the countryside.

In considering planning applications the Local Planning Authority will often consult other professional and outside agencies such as, the Highway Authority, the Environment Agency (with regard to pollution of a nearby watercourse/water supply source or to ensure adequate drainage) and the council's Environmental Health Section (with regard to nuisance from smell/flies to nearby residential property).