Mobile Field Shelters – planning permission required?

If you keep horses you have have thought about using a mobile field shelter or stable to protect them against the good old British weather. But what are the rules. Can you just add them as long as they can be moved? Or will you need planning permission?

Mobile Field Shelter

 Photo by Malan Peyton

If you do a quick Google search, then you will rapidly discover that mobile field shelters or stables probably do not require planning. This is the story put out by manufacturers of the product. They might use the words generally do not or shouldn’t require planning etc. Buried deep somewhere will be a condition advising you to check with the local authority! This is a very broad statement to make as it is easy to make anything not legal!

You will also read of the Inspectorate having ruled that a mobile shelter or two are legal and can remain.This is because they ruled that the field shelters were not buildings as they were portable and on skids. Instead, they amounted to use of the land. They were chattels.

However this does not give the rights to every mobile shelter. Every inspectorate decision can be unique to certain circumstances and it is common to see decisions going both ways.

However, long time readers of Planning Geek or those who have heard Ian talk, will know that we advise against asking the local authority!

So what are the facts?


What is a mobile field shelter?

Mobile field shelters are basic structures erected for horses, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas etc. Being mobile they must be easily moveable from one location to another. Often they are built on skids or wheels. They might be made of wood or other suitable materials.


Field Shelter Planning

Firstly equestrian uses do not have any permitted development rights, bar those in Part 2 of the GPDO such as fences. You can also use a field for any purpose for up to 28 days under Class B of Part 4.

This is where we believe some of the confusion lies. Class B does not allow you to move the temporary items around the field to get another 28 days. Further confusion arise by the likes of Kevin McCloud and George Clarke saying that anything on wheels doesn’t need planning. This has over time translated to if it moves it doesn’t need planning. That is not true. It might be true under legislation such as the Caravan Act, but that very much depends upon where the wheeled structure is.

Also we need to consider the legal use of the land. If the land is agricultural and the horses are simply grazing that is one matter, however if the horse are being kept on the land then there is likely to be a breach of planning already. The use if the land would need to be changed to equestrian. But if the landowner can demonstrate that horses have been kept on the land without material interruption for at least 10 years, as opposed to simply being grazed, the existing use will be lawful or immune from action. In this case we would suggest a certificate of lawfulness. Planning Geek can help with this.

If the land is agricultural, then there might be permitted development rights for erecting suitable structures under Part 6 of the GPDO. This adds to the confusion!

Some local authorities have decided that a moveable structure is fine within reason. They are quite happy. They have decided that the field shelters are chattels rather than operational development. In our opinion that is the correct decision where it can be demonstrated that these are truly mobile and have not acquired a sufficient degree of permanence. Again as long as the use of the land is legal. Actually moving them regularly is less important in our opinion, just that they can be easily moved.

What you must not do is to fix it to the ground via cables, bolts or similar. Likewise you must not undertake earthworks or place a hard standing or similar for the animals. It must be easily moveable without a base. Sadly with high winds that might mean that the structure falls over – unfortunately in order to comply with any local policy that might be a risk you have to take.

Other local authorities, and these are growing in number, take a harder stance and will require planning permission for any field shelters. Whether they are correct in that stance, is another matter. Mobile field shelters should be considered chattels in our opinion.

If the shelter becomes a stable, then this does complicate matters. If the legal use of the land is agriculture, then both it and the land would be subject to enforcement as the horses are being kept rather than just grazed.


Residential curtilage

if you are reading this page, as you have horses as pets and they are part of the family, then as long as the shelter or even stables are within the residential curtilage, you will be covered under Class E of Part 1 of the GPDO as this will be considered an outbuilding. Sadly fields are not part of a residential curtilage, so we can’t use that option


The answer?

You might decide having read this that the mobile field shelter is indeed legal and it can stay. Under the right circumstances, we would probably agree. But that in itself does not prevent enforcement come knocking on the door (or gate in this instance).

If you do not have planning permission to keep horses as opposed to grazing them, then enforcement will take action on that breach with any structures being thrown into the mix. Planning Geek can assist you with this change of use.

The only way to be sure is to submit a certificate of lawfulness either before purchasing and erecting the field shelter or afterwards. If this is declined then you will need planning or to appeal. Or retrospective planning if already erected. A Planning Geek consultant can apply for this on your behalf. Contact us for more information and costs.

In conclusion, we do agree that mobile field shelters should not require planning – but as long as you stick to a few rules and ensure that you are not breaching the use of the land.

If you need further help, why not post on our forums.





Page Updated: 13th January 2024