A Flintshire horse keeper claims she is being victimised by her local planning authority, after being told she must apply for a change of use for her field.

Debbie Johnson, of Gwernaffield, near Mold, says she is the only horse owner in the area to be ordered to apply for a change of use of her land from agricultural to leisure usage, so she can continue to keep horses.

“We have five horses in the field — two two-year-olds, a retired pony and the pair my daughter and I ride — and they all live out,” said Mrs Johnson.

“Every field around us is full of horses but we are the only ones to be singled out. I think it’s victimisation.”

Mrs Johnson bought the eight-acre field in Nercwys last January and almost immediately received a letter from the council asking her to remove a temporary shelter and warning that she needed to apply for a change of use at a cost of £314.

H&H reported a similar incident last year (news, 1 June 2006) when North Wiltshire District Council asked the Mendoza family to apply for planning permission to site show jumps in their field. The council later decided not to pursue the matter.

Land agents Humberts told H&H at the time that under planning law using a field to graze horses is not a change of use.

“We don’t have any jumps, or a trailer, or anything else on the land, just two temporary field shelters, so I can’t see how it needs a change of use,” said Mrs Johnson.

She also feels the council was unfair in a previous application for permission for a field shelter in a field she owns at Treuddyn.

“An officer came out and told us where to put the field shelter, but when we put in our application it was refused.

“We appealed and again the application was refused, so we have had to give up on that field because we can’t put any shelter there for the horses.

“We then asked the council about temporary field shelters and were told they did not need planning permission, but now they are telling us we have to remove them from the other field.

“I expect they will go for enforcement any day, but we are worried that if we apply for change of use, and lose, we will not be able to keep the horses on the land.”

Flintshire County Council declined to comment on the case.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (15 November, ’07)