Bourne Rural Planning Consultancy LTD



Jill Scrivener spoke at the BIAC National Planning Conference

Her presentation was based on the opportunities and trends of equestrian development, exploring the implications of inheritance tax planning, business (non-domestic) rates, and loss of permitted development rights - all of which are factors for consideration when exploring a change of use of land and/or buildings to an equestrian use.

The strong connection between areas of peak equestrian activity across the country and the Green Belt areas was clear - leading to conflict between national policy (which does not support the change of use from agricultural to equestrian use) and areas where horse ownership is at the highest.

In more detail:

  • Equestrian development has become a minefield for those wanting to change use of land or buildings to equestrian use and that there has been a marked tightening up on business and non-domestic rates which affects equestrian facilities, critically, whether they are for personal or commercial use. (There are significant implications associated with business or non-domestic rates, and or change of use, which generates a new valuation of the land/buildings.) She said that this will be particularly important as there appears to be an increased focus from the Valuations Office on targeting equestrian development and activities. Additionally, there are significant hikes ahead in rateable value with some riding schools and livery yards being hit with increases of 180% and up to 365% in the south east (BHS data). She explained that business rates or non-domestic rates are calculated on a ‘bricks and mortar basis’ taking into account premises size and use, with the rateable value for some facilities being significant. What is even less well known is that the implications for associated with equestrian facilities for private use, as the test is not ‘is there a business in operation’ but the core test for valuation is whether the stables/facilities are within the curtilage of the dwelling.

Other pitfalls include:

  • Many are also unaware that if they propose change of use for an agricultural barn or building to equestrian use they will permanently lose agricultural permitted development rights including those for Class Q (agricultural to residential) and Class R (agricultural to flexible commercial).   
  • There are inheritance tax implications associated with change of use to equestrian. Land in agricultural use benefits from agricultural property relief and can be passed on free of Inheritance Tax. However, once land has changed to equestrian use, will not have the same benefits (unless it is an equestrian stud farm). 
  • The areas in the UK that show the highest levels of horse ownership and increased equestrian activity are now concentrated in the Green Belt – the very areas where the Government has restricted opportunities for equestrian development are those most likely to want it. Change of use of land from agricultural to equestrian is not supported in the Green Belt terms except in ‘Very Special Circumstances’ – which Ms Scrivener stressed ‘is no mean feat to prove’ – so with increased equestrian activity and horse ownership across the UK there are more problems looming in the future.


Jill Scrivener