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When is a Field Shelter not a Field Shelter?

Trying to work out whether something needs planning approval or not can be hard work at the best of times, in some cases the answer comes down to interpretation of the rules. In fact, ask different planning officers at different local authorities the same question and you are likely to receive different answers depending on how they may have interpreted things in the past. If the councils can’t agree on these things what chance has anyone else got?

We receive a lot of calls from people who have fallen foul of planning for exactly this reason, at the end of the day your average landowner is not an expert on planning law so innocent mistakes are often made. One of the most common planning mistakes we come across tends to be landowners who put up field shelters without the necessary planning approval.

The usual scenario is this.

Someone buys a parcel of land or perhaps a house with land the intention being to use the land as turn-out for their own horses. As soon as the sale has gone through they move their horses onto the land together with some wooden field shelters. The buildings are on metal skids, the company who sold them the buildings were adamant they didn’t need planning permission because they don’t have foundations. A few months later and the landowner receives a letter from the council, the letter is from planning enforcement telling the landowner to remove said buildings or submit a planning application for them within the next 28 days. The letter warns the landowner that should their planning application be rejected the buildings will need to be removed immediately. So what went wrong? Well, a few things most likely.

Mare and Foals in a field

First of all, it sounds like the person they bought the buildings from has given them duff information but on reading the building companies small print they find no mention that planning permission is definitely not required.

Secondly it appears someone has ‘dobbed them in’, probably a neighbour or local resident who has taken offence that the open countryside they walked past every now and then suddenly has buildings on it.

Finally, there’s the threat of legal action from the council meaning the buildings they spent their hard earned money on might have to be removed, winters creeping in, what about the horses?

So when do I need planning permission for a field shelter?

Good question. If the field shelter starts to look like a permanent structure that tends to be the tipping point so avoid putting them on a base of any kind or excavating your field to create a level area for the field shelter.

Don’t be tempted to tie down the field shelter using cables, if it has a tendency to fall over in the wind better to put it in a sheltered position or even plant some new hedgerow as a windbreak.

Don’t put a gate or doors on the building, the structure needs to be open at the front to be classed as a field shelter, attaching doors to it will make it a ‘stable’ and stables need planning permission in most circumstances.

The size of the field shelter can also be a determining factor especially in Green Belt locations, the AONB or Conservation Areas. The larger the shelter the more likely it will be subject to planning permission because it will become less ‘temporary/portable’ and more akin to a permanent structure. It might be better to have two smaller field shelters in different locations rather than one large shelter especially if the building is clearly visible from neighbouring properties or public footpaths/roads.

Materials are also important, a timber field shelter on skids is one thing a field shelter built in concrete blockwork with a metal roof is something else!

Finally, think about where you locate the field shelter, you can help yourself by positioning them in an area well screened by mature hedgerows or trees. The more obvious they look in the landscape the more likely people are to object to them.

As previously mentioned every local authority tends to take a different view on field shelters, some councils will see them as temporary buildings or chattels others see them as permanent buildings and take their impact on the landscape into account hence the need for planning approval. The area where the land is located has a bearing on the council’s decision as does the existing planning use of the land i.e. has the field been used by horses in the past or is it agricultural land historically used for grazing farm animals or producing hay? Perhaps the field shelter is positioned on land within your residential curtilage?

Before you buy your field shelter email our office for free advice or speak to your local planning department and ask whether planning permission is required. Don’t gamble £2.5k or more on a building that may have to be removed a few months down the line.

For further advice contact our staff on 01772 369090 or drop us a line at


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