A Government Inspector has allowed an Enforcement Appeal for use of land at Keepers Cottage, Walhampton for horse grazing and a mobile field shelter and ordered New Forest National Park Authority to pay costs for their unreasonable behaviour.

In August 2014 the Park Authority served an Enforcement Notice on Mr and Mrs Winney of Keepers Cottage alleging that they had breached planning control by changing the use of land from agriculture to recreational horse keeping. The Enforcement Notice also alleged that they had erected a stable building without planning permission.

Specialist town planning consultants Tanner & Tilley submitted an appeal against the Enforcement Notice on behalf of Tim and Sally Winney. They argued that there had been no change of use and that the land remained in agricultural use for grazing of horses. They also argued that the mobile field shelter on the land was not permanently fixed to the land because it was capable of being periodically moved on its metal skids. Therefore, it did not constitute development requiring planning permission.

Peter Tanner, Managing Director of Tanner and Tilley, said, “In an attempt to avoid the unnecessary time and cost of this Enforcement Appeal we repeatedly requested the Park Authority to produce evidence that the alleged breaches of planning control had taken place. No such evidence was forthcoming from the Authority and their case relied solely on guidance contained in their Supplementary Planning Document ‘Guidelines for horse related development’.

In allowing the appeal and making an award of costs against the Park Authority, Planning Inspect, John Braithwaite, found that the mobile field shelter is easily moveable and was only in one position on the land for a significant period during 2014 because swallows were nesting within it. To have moved the structure whilst this was occurring would have been an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Since then he was satisfied that there was evidence on the ground of relatively bare patches in the otherwise long grass of the land, indicating that it has been moved on more than one occasion and for some considerable distance on each occasion. The Inspector was therefore satisfied that the field shelter is moveable and has not taken on any degree of permanence such as to constitute development requiring planning permission.

On the issue of the alleged change of use of the land from grazing to recreational horse keeping, the Park Authority had tried to argue that the land is too small to sustain a horse if  its sole source of food is grass. The Park Authority guidelines suggest that a change of use from agriculture to the keeping of horses generally occurs when there is less than 0.5 hectares of land per horse. However, the Inspector considered such an assertion to be speculation and considered that there was no evidence to indicate that a horse has ever been permanently on the land. He was critical of the Park Authority’s argument commenting that it failed to take account of circumstances where a horse is grazed on land on an occasional basis.

In making an award of costs in favour of Mr and Mrs Winney against the Park Authority the Inspector found that the Authority had relied almost solely on their planning guidance rather than on the evidence and on the facts of the case. He considered that the Authority had brought forward no evidence to substantiate their case for the serving of the Enforcement Notice. Therefore, he considered that the Park Authority had acted unreasonably and the Appellants had incurred unnecessary expense having to submit their appeals.

Commenting on the dismissal of the Enforcement Appeal and the award of costs against the Park Authority, Tim Winney said, “We are very grateful for the support and assistance of Tannner and Tilley in over-turning this Enforcement Notice which the Park Authority should never have served in the first instance. It has been a very stressful period for my wife and I and at times it has felt as if we have been victimised by the Park Authority. At last we can draw a line under the matter and continue to enjoy the use of our land”

(Planning Inspectorate Appeal Ref. APP/B9506/C/14/2224711 and 2224712)