Our client runs commercial stables, a riding school and some holiday lets on a farm at the top of the North Downs and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Existing planning conditions restricted the use of the sand school and stables to private use and those staying in the holiday lets but, over time, the riding school has become established on a more commercial basis and our client wanted to regularise the situation by applying to remove the original conditions. We would normally have sought to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Use given the length of operation but could not quite demonstrate the required ten years’ continuous use.

Furthermore, our client, who provides dedicated riding lessons for the disabled among many other classes, was frequently forced to cancel classes due to windy and wet weather so sought permission for a large indoor arena with a viewing area and café. While it is normally relatively straightforward to obtain planning permission for buildings for equestrian use, the landscape impact in the AONB was a key concern for the LPA, as was the potential increase in traffic movements due to the site’s location on a narrow lane that could only accommodate one-way traffic.

The arena was carefully sited to minimise the landscape issues and, to allay concerns about traffic generation, conditions were offered to restrict the use of the arena and café to members only with no external competitions allowed. We made the case that keeping horses and riding are activities synonymous with the countryside and showed the riding school was well-loved and used by its neighbours and members. The venture would create two more part-time employment opportunities for the local community in addition to a number of existing jobs generated by the business.

Ultimately, there were no objections to the scheme with 35 letters of support and permission was granted. This is a good example of a scheme that secured both commercial and community benefits.