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Q: Are there any laws restricting the number of horses that can be kept on your own land for private use?

My neighbour keeps over 100 horses on his 40 acres of land, which seems excessive, especially when herds of them gallop up and down our boundary fencing.

Does the local authority have enforcement powers to restrict numbers?
PC, Suffolk

There are no laws restricting the number of horses kept privately, unless planning or “duty of care” regulations are challenged.

The UK does have generic animal welfare guidelines that reflect the need for disease control and animal welfare; organisations such as the British Horse Society and Defra advise horse owners on these guidelines.

Experts generally recommend one to two acres of grazing per horse.

Local authorities may become involved if overgrazed land becomes hazardous; the horses have “a negative effect on the local environment”; if there is a problem with noise pollution, or if the authorities become involved if there are welfare concerns with the horses.

Planning implications

Rebecca Hewitt, partner in the equine team at Darbys Solicitors LLP, advises you to look into planning considerations involved in keeping multiple horses: “Planning considerations can be surprisingly complicated when it comes to keeping horses,” she said.

“Keeping horses for your own enjoyment may not require planning permission, but only if the horses are deemed to be ‘incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house’, and kept within the curtilage of the property.

“Owners should also comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Horse Passport Regulations 2005 [updated in July 2009],” said Rebecca.

“They have a legal duty of care to all horses to ensure they have a suitable environment to live in, a healthy diet and are protected from pain, suffering and disease.”

Information

Darbys, tel: 01865 811700 www.darbys.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (18 February, ’10)

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