Make sure your field shelter is truly mobile or risk having to apply for planning permission — this is the warning from estate agents and manufacturers after recent council actions.

Two horse owners have contacted H&H having been told field shelters need planning permission, contrary to prevailing opinion.

Andrew Redman moved to Wales last year with five horses and put up two field shelters, both on skids with hooks on either side.

But he later received a letter from a planning enforcement officer stating he couldn’t have any structures on the land without consent.

“They are fully moveable,” Mr Redman told H&H. “The letter stated that forms — which weren’t included — should be filled in and there was a £660 fine, which on our pensions we didn’t have. So we were prosecuted and have been in court twice, with another appearance to be confirmed. ”

Carmarthen Council told H&H planning permission was required because of “the creation of a hard standing upon which the stables are located permanently”.

But Mr Redman countered: “The shelters are on washed riverstone, not concrete.”

When questioned about field shelters, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Government said: “Field shelters are considered temporary and do not need planning permission if they are fully mobile. But it depends how long they’ve remained static, the degree of portability and if they’ve changed the use of the land.”

‘Councils are getting stricter’

In 2001, a planning permission case brought by Purbeck District Council (DC) against a landowner who had a mobile field shelter in Dorset, was quashed, setting a precedent. But John Bartlett from Longham was served with enforcement notices by East Dorset District Council six months ago.

“We have 70 acres and 60 horses — they’re demanding we take the field shelters down,” he said. “Even if they’re on skids, we’ve been told to move them. We’re going to court on 1 November. It’s costing us a fortune to fight.”

Mr Bartlett’s shelters were found to be in breach of planning laws, despite not having a hard floor. Planning inspector Jane Stiles said: “I do not consider the shelter to be a temporary use of land, but a new building which requires planning permission.”

She added that putting skids on the shelter would not resolve the matter.

A spokesman for East Dorset DC said that the appeal decision from Purbeck DC can “no longer be relied upon” and that future cases “will have to be considered on their merits”.

But Paul Machin from Prime Stables says if a council brings a case involving field shelters to court they are unlikely to win.

“If it can be towed, then it’s not really a building, but a piece of equipment,” he said. “But you must use shelters in the right way. We’ve seen many letters from councils, but at the end of the day, I think they’re just threats.”

Estate agents also advise caution.

“As soon as you put any kind of base down, then it does need permission,” said Zoe Napier from Zoe Napier Country and Equestrian.

And William Grant from Fox Grant has had problems. “Things are getting stricter — I’ve just been served a notice stripping me of all my permitted developing rights for mobile field shelters. It’s the ultimate threat, but in the middle of nowhere you’re probably all right.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (23 June, 2011)