A combine harvests a cereal crop

Agricultural use vs equestrian use under planning law

Understanding the difference

Local Authority enforcement action against unlawful equestrian use of agricultural land is a threat that should not be taken lightly by landowners.

Many agricultural landowners are unaware of the distinction between agricultural use of land and equestrian use of land. ‘Agriculture’ is defined as: “horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land) the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes.”

The only equestrian “use” that falls within the agricultural definition is:- producing horses for slaughter, working horses on the land (e.g. ploughing with horses which is a rare sight today), and turning horses out for grazing only.

The most common form of agricultural equine use is grazing horses on land. However, as soon as more is being done to the horses than merely grazing, for example additional feeding on the land, rugging the horses and/or riding them on the land, use falls within “equestrian use.” The landowner must then apply to his/her local planning department for a change of use from agriculture to equestrian.

Landowners face enforcement action for unlawful equestrian use for a variety of reasons such as allowing agricultural buildings on their farms to be used for keeping horses and turning horses out on agricultural land with additional feed, rugging and riding on the land. Enforcement action focuses on returning the land and buildings to their original state, which can be tricky if a landowner has agreed a formal written lease with an equestrian tenant for such use!

Contact a specialist Agricultural solicitor

For specialist agricultural legal advice, call us now on 0800 652 8025 or contact us online.

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