13 May Planning for all-weather riding surfaces

Arguably one of the biggest equestrian planning challenges is that of all-weather riding surfaces. Equestrian development does not come under permitted developments and any works to take place on private land outside the curtilage of a house will require a full planning application to be made to the local council. This can be a rigorous task and the road to achieving the equestrian facilities of your dreams can be a lengthy one which should be approached with due care and consideration.

Traditionally, development within the countryside is limited and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) focuses on sustainable development which encompasses an economic, social and environmental role. There is little in the way of policy relating to equestrian development and large scale schemes can be seen as a blot on the natural environment. Equestrian use does not come under the umbrella of agriculture however there is significant guidance under section 3 of the NPPF ‘Supporting a prosperous rural economy’ where equestrian businesses are concerned. Arenas which are located close to existing buildings will be considered favourable over stand-alone sites and careful consideration should be taken when choosing the location and siting. Generally designated areas which include Green Belt, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, SSSIs and conservation areas will be more problematic in terms of gaining planning permission.

One of the primary decisions to be made is whether to go for an indoor or outdoor arena. Inevitably the decision will come down to a number of factors which include the location, the size and the required use. Generally outdoor arenas will be seen as favourable, and the size and scale of these will need to be considered when making the application. For private use the local council will generally see 20x40m as an acceptable facility for all weather riding. It provides a suitable alternative to grass which can become too wet in the winter months or too hard in the summer. For a commercial or business use larger arenas such as 20x60m may be more applicable on the basis that a higher standard of training is required for the horses. Indoor arenas may be seen as more appropriate where the UK weather would have a detrimental impact on the financial viability of the equestrian business.

Initial considerations when thinking of a new arena include:

  • Access to the proposed site and ground conditions
  • Location and siting of the proposal in relation to designation areas
  • Landscaping and site levelling
  • Drainage issues including banking, ditching and mitigating run off issues
  • Consideration of trees, hedges and the surrounding topography
  • Maintenance and monitoring once the surface has been implemented
  • The size, type and proposed surface including boundaries

The Rural Planning Practice has extensive experience in dealing with planning applications for arenas with much success. With a varied catalogue of work from small scale arenas for private use to large scale indoor arenas with associated viewing galleries and facilities, we are able to provide guidance throughout the whole process. We are able to help assist in preparing all of the necessary documentation including environmental statements, proposed method of construction, cross section drawings which deal with depth and earth works, drainage management plans and managing objections.