Do you need planning permission for horse arena lights?

Running a horse arena or yard during the summer is great, the longer sunlight hours mean plenty of time outside with your horses and enough light to get those all-important chores done around the yard.

But what happens when summer is over, and the evenings get darker earlier? Do you just stop training in your manège in the evenings and start later in the day?

Arena lighting can extend your time outside for several hours a day and make it much safer to be outside with your horses after the sun has gone down or before it’s up in the morning.

And what if you are monetising your yard, offering riding lessons, horse boarding, pasture care, or renting out your arena? You need appropriate lighting to maximise your income throughout the year, rather than putting up with seasonal income.

Do I need planning permission to install arena lights at my horse manège?

If you want to install lights at your horse arena or showground, whether you need planning permission to do so or not is dependent on several factors.

If you want to install permanent, mains powered arena lighting then the short answer is yes, absolutely you need to seek planning permission. As with any form of construction, if you are building something new, changing or expanding an existing site, or changing the use of a building or site, you need to seek planning permission. Installing permanent lighting posts with, presumably, a connection to the main power grid is a new construction and, as such, would require planning permission.

So, if you would like to install permanent flood lighting structures around your yard or arena, you will need to submit a planning application to your local authority.

The trouble with planning permission for lighting, however, is that it is slightly more complicated than submitting a planning application for regular buildings. Because lighting is considered a form of pollution and can potentially affect the wider area around it, there are certain factors that require consideration during the planning stage.

What do I need to consider when designing lighting for my horse arena?

The UK Government has a section on their website relating to planning permission that outlines guidance for light pollution that needs to be considered when it comes to lighting installation.

Within this guidance are several points that, we’re sure you’ll agree, may be problematic when it comes to gaining planning permission for the installation of a permanent, mains-powered lighting solution for your horse manège.

  • Will the development alter light levels in the local environment and/or affect the use or enjoyment of nearby spaces or buildings?
  • Will the impact of new lighting conflict with the needs of specialist facilities that require low light levels (observatories, airports, etc.).
  • Is the development in or near a protected area of dark sky or intrinsically dark landscape where new lighting wouldn’t be in keeping with local nocturnal light levels?
  • Would new lighting have any safety impacts – i.e., hazardous to road users?
  • Will the lighting have a significant impact on local wildlife or ecosystems?

As you can see, some of the above (and there is more in the above link too) will need to be taken into consideration when thinking about installing lighting at your horse arena. 

Depending on the location of your arena and the land/area surrounding it, some of these considerations will be more pertinent than others. For example, if there is a main road that runs adjacent to the land on which your horse arena sits, any lighting installation could possibly affect road users’ visibility or be distracting. 

Can I install lighting without the need for planning permission?

This is a little more complicated to answer.

Using battery powered, outdoor rated, lighting solutions like the CORE Flood battery powered LED Floodlight would do away with the need for planning permission relating to the construction of permanent lighting masts entirely. They would also be a good option; in that you could take them down and put them into storage during the lighter months. And, because they are battery powered and not permanently installed, you could move them whenever you needed lighting elsewhere, such as working in an open field.

However, because they are flood lights, and because you may be intending to use them for months at a time when natural light is insufficient, you may need to consider any of the possible implications mentioned above with regards to light pollution. 

How can I ensure I am granted planning permission for my horse arena lighting?

It would always be worth enquiring with your local authority or a planning specialist or advisor to make sure, but there may be ways to negate the potential negative implications of floodlighting. 

If your horse arena is not immediately adjacent to or near any roads or residential areas, then you are unlikely to affect them, and that issue is not a concern. The same goes for specialist facilities or protected areas of dark skies. 

If your horse arena is mostly surrounded by countryside or fields, your main point of contention is likely to be that your artificial lighting may not be in keeping with local nocturnal levels or that it may impact on local wildlife or ecosystems. This, however, could be mitigated by stating that your CORE Flood battery powered LED lights are temporary lights that would only be used up until a certain time in the evening (say 9-10pm, however late you’ll be requiring their use) so would not impact the environment or the enjoyment of it throughout the night.

If your horse arena is within close distance of any residential areas or areas that people like to enjoy, such as public rights of way etc. then your main point of contention is likely to be the impact on people and their enjoyment of the area. 

In a lot of cases, if you place your lights in the right places, angle them as far below horizontal as possible to prevent as much light glow as possible, and have the brightness setting as low as you can, the impact on the surrounding area will be minimal.

If you do have people living near your horse arena, or enjoying the countryside around your land, it may be worth including them in your design process with a consultation. That way, you can explain your plans for lighting your manège during the evenings in the darker months and how you plan to prevent it impacting the environment and their enjoyment of it. By including them and appeasing any concerns they may have, they would be much less likely to object to any plans, should you need to apply for planning permission.

And, at the end of the day, you will only be using your lighting for a short period of the year and for only a couple of hours or so each night during that time. So, if you use battery powered lighting, such as the CORE Flood, you may not require planning permission at all or, if you do, would be much more likely to be granted planning permission if you take the above into consideration.