THE RURAL PLANNING RACTICE – Planning for a Stable Future ..

It is the dream of many horse owners to look out of their bedroom window in the morning and see their horses tucked up on the yard outside. The dream can become a reality, but requires jumping over the hurdles of the planning process first. 

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is the basis of modern day planning and permission will be required for any permanent equestrian building. This includes anything from a small two horse permanent field shelter to a commercial yard with 40 stables. A mobile field shelter which has skids will not require planning permission if there is no hardstanding and it is moved at least every 6 months.Equestrian development will, by its very nature, take place in the countryside in the majority of cases and the management and protection of rural areas is one of the key principles of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is carried through to local planning policy and some local authorities have specific policies relating to equestrian development. Constraints such as being located inside an area of landscape designation can be a stumbling block. It may be possible to erect stables within the residential curtilage using permitted development, which does not require planning permission. There are however, limitations in areas of landscape designation or in the curtilage of a listed building.

The first stage is to establish a budget for the work. Planning can be an expensive process and the build costs are high although some alternatives are cheaper than others. It is sensible to do research and get quotes from local tradesman for the work. It will then be worth establishing what it is you want; how many stables, additional facilities and access are all initial considerations. Once the idea starts to formulate it is a good idea to contact a planning consultant and designer who can advise and help to prepare an application on your behalf. Depending on the proposal it may be worth applying for pre-application advice which gives the applicants the opportunity to speak to the case officer on an informal basis. It is advisable to use this approach for more complex sites where there are listed buildings or landscape designation constraints.

The justification of the proposal is imperative and the design, layout and considerations of the stable yard should be clearly set out. The planning authority are unlikely to grant permission for an American barn and indoor school if the applicants are a mother and daughter with one pony to share out hacking. Equally there is a necessity for a professional rider to have adequate and sometimes expansive facilities in order to train horses and run their business successfully. 

Key points

Private v Commercial 

The distinction between private and commercial use needs to be made. The growth of rural businesses is encouraged generally by the government and successful livery yards and competition centres can go a long way in employing local staff in the form of grooms, trainers, riders and groundsmen. If the yard is for private use the planning authority are likely to place a condition on the decision notice restricting the stables to private use only. For private use the number of horses and amount of land needs to reflect a sensible stocking rate. Access and hacking can be a policy consideration. 


Serious considerations need to be taken when thinking about how many stables are needed. Something too large will not only prove too costly but can be hard to rationalise. Equally it can prove wise to plan for the future, rather than going through the planning process again. It is worth considering all the ‘extra’ space that will be required on top of stables. This includes a feed room, tack room, hay store, farrier bay, wash bay or even an equine solarium! The choice will ultimately come down to what is reasonably required as well as the all important budget.


Once plans have been made for the number of stables needed, the type is the next decision to be made. Brick stables can be attractive but are often expensive and a cheaper timber alternative may prove to be the better option. The standard size of stables is 12 metres x 12 metres but this could be tight for a horse over 16hh. 14 metres x 14 metres may be more suitable. It can be beneficial to create an ‘L’ or ‘U’ shape rather than a row of boxes as this provides a courtyard and shelter from the elements. American barns have benefits such as making it easier for management and ventilation but can be more expensive. Another benefit is that they come across as more ‘agricultural’ in appearance which can be an advantage. 

The Rural Planning Practice have an excellent track record of dealing with applications for equestrian buildings. We have a varied catalogue of work from small private clients to professional competition riders. We are able to help assist in preparing all of the necessary documentation including design and access statements, biodiversity surveys, proposed method of construction and drawings. We also specialise in listed buildings and are able to help with the conversion of existing buildings to equestrian use.

We have offices in Cirencester, Gloucestershire and Cranbrook, Kent and would be delighted to assist with any planning queries you may have. 

Telephone: 01285 719568 (Cirencester) / 01580 201888 (Cranbrook)


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