Q: I wish to rent approximately nine acres of land for grazing horses, and the landowner says I will need to enter into a farm tenancy. Will that be sufficient to cover me for my own use and for some liveries, as not everyone sees grazing horses as agriculture?
I’m also planning to develop a cross-country course on the land for occasional training sessions and hunter trials. Do I need planning permission for this?

We spoke to planning consultant Judith Norris, who said that the grazing of horses, when used in conjunction with a commercial business, is not acceptable “agricultural business” covered by a farm business tenancy.

“The agreement would need to be either a licence or a business tenancy, and it should be drawn up or approved by a solicitor before it is signed by both parties,” she says.

“In the case of a business tenancy, there may be repercussions unless the correct procedure is followed with regard to the statutory extension of the term of the lease, which may not be what your landlord wants.

“As far as the cross-country course is concerned, most local authorities deem this a change of use of the land. In the past, we have successfully argued for clients that fences and hedges are part of the field boundary, and that portable fences fall within the 28-day rule for temporary use of land. But stand-alone fences tend to be more contentious.

“Planning officers will be inclined to view the course as an entity and, if it is to be used on a fairly regular basis for training and competitions, they will wish to ensure that adequate, safe parking with sufficient room to manoeuvre boxes and trailers is available. The access from the site must provide adequate sight lines, so that there is no risk to highway safety.

“The general amenity of the area and impact of a course on neighbours will be another concern, and care needs to be taken in landscape sensitive areas, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Parks. If the course crosses a public footpath or bridleway, this too may be a source of concern to the planning authority. Therefore, any planning application for a cross-country course needs to explain clearly what is proposed and how it will be used.

“In addition to planning permission, you will need to insure yourself against third party claims from users of the course if they are injured. These days, it is often necessary to obtain a signature from those using courses for schooling, confirming that they have read the safety advice and terms of use.”

Information

For equine planning advice contact Judith Norris Ltd
Tel: 01580 201888 or visit www.judithnorris.co.uk

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (8 March, ’07)