planning report PDU/0399/01
19 December, 2001
Chessington Equestrian Centre
in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames
planning application no. 01/02220/OUT
Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended); Greater London
Authority Act 1999; Town & Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order
2000 – strategic planning application stage I referral
Redevelopment to provide an equestrian centre comprising covered sand
school with reception, offices, ancillary accommodation and residential
accommodation for staff/pupils, 40 livery stables and horse walker, hay
barn, extension to existing haybarn and parking.
1 On 8 October 2001, Kingston Council consulted the Mayor of London, on a proposal
to develop the above site for the above uses. Under the provisions of the Town & Country
Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2000 the Mayor has the same opportunity as other
statutory consultees to comment on the proposal. This report sets out information for the
Mayor’s use in deciding what comments to make.
2 The application is referrable under Category 3D of the Order 2000: “Development on
land allocated as Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land in the development plan,….. which would
involve the construction of a building with a floorspace of more than 1,000 sq. m… .”
3 If Kingston Council subsequently decides that it is minded to grant planning
permission, it must first allow the Mayor an opportunity to decide whether to direct the
Council to refuse permission.
4 The Mayor of London’s comments on this case will be made available on the GLA
Details of the proposal
5 To demolish and remove existing stables, sheds, mobile homes and caravans from the
Equestrian Centre and adjoining land known as Par Piggeries, and to replace them with 40
new stables, a hay barn of 550 sq. m., an indoor sand school of 1200 sq. m. with attached
student/staff accommodation and reception area, a new dwelling for the proprietor, and a
mobile home for the yard manager. A small extension is also proposed to an existing hay
barn, and parking would be provided for approximately 28 cars. It is proposed to demolish
1397 sq. m. of existing and the construction of 2982 sq. m. of new buildings, an increase of
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114%. The application is in outline with siting and means of access to be determined. There
are no details of the height and appearance of the proposed replacement buildings.
6 The site is located within the Metropolitan Green Belt, on the eastern side of the
borough close to the A3 trunk road, which forms the boundary with Elmbridge Council. It
comprises an existing equestrian centre on a site of approximately 30 acres. The existing
Centre is located on two separate parts of the site. To the south are 43 livery stables and
adjoining ancillary sheds and mobile homes, which are in a poor state of repair. To the north
of the site are a further 22 stables used for riding school horses which are in better condition.
There are currently 78 horses kept on the site. In between the stables is a piece of land
known as the Par Piggeries site, which is currently let out to another party, but is included
as part of the application site. The applicants are attempting to gain possession of this area.
7 The site is bounded by disused playing fields and allotments, which are also within
the Green Belt, and is accessed by an unmade road from Clayton Road, which runs from
Chessington to Claygate.
8 The site has been the subject of a number of unlawful planning uses and the
subject of various enforcement actions. Before the site was transferred to Kingston from
Elmbridge a number of applications for uses such as housing, retail and a golf academy
were refused on Green Belt policy grounds.
9 An outline application to erect an enclosed arena building, stables, hay barn, feed
storage building, ancillary residential accommodation, provision of sand arena, parking, one
way road system and landscaping was refused in January 1998, as being inappropriate
development in the Green Belt. This application proposed new buildings of 7017 sq. m.
10 An application for similar uses to the above, but reducing the amount of floorspace to
2925 sq. m., was also refused in July 2000 as inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
Relevant strategic planning policies
11 Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 on Green Belts (PPG 2) lists five purposes of
including land in Green Belts:
To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas.
To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another.
To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.
To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns and..
To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban
12 PPG2 indicates a presumption against inappropriate development within the Green
Belt, which should not be approved except in very special circumstances. The construction of
new buildings within the Green Belt is inappropriate development unless they are ancillary
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to the main open land use, such as pavilions and changing rooms for sport, agricultural
buildings and cemeteries. If a proposal is to be considered inappropriate it is for the applicant
to demonstrate that very special circumstances exist by showing that the harm by reason of
inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.
Regional Planning Guidance Note 3 adopts a similar stance.
13 “Towards the London Plan” identifies Green Belt land to be of strategic importance
and worthy of protection, and encourages the provision of cultural, arts and sports facilities
in or close to town centres with good public transport accessibility.
14 The Kingston Adopted Unitary Development Plan (1998) and the First Review
(2001) both identify the site as a “Key opportunity for rationalisation and improvement of
Green Belt land. This policy takes a proactive approach to the planning of an area that has
been subject to a number of problems including poor access and poor appearance. There is
the opportunity to provide outdoor sports and recreational uses within Green Belt
designation and policy. The Council is keen to see this area improved in both its usage and
appearance. However, built development will need to remain ancillary to the main use and
appropriate to the Green Belt location.”
Analysis of strategic planning issues
15 The main issue is whether the scheme complies with strategic policy for development
within the Green Belt, and if not whether there are any exceptional circumstances to justify
an exception to that policy.
16 The applicants have put the following arguments forward to support their
The development would be appropriate development in the Green Belt as the buildings
would only occupy 2% of the overall site with the remainder being used as open grazing
land, and would therefore be ancillary and essential facilities for outdoor sport and
The proposed redevelopment would improve the appearance of the site by removing
many of the existing unsightly buildings, and developments that are subject to
The new indoor riding school will ensure year round teaching and training, enabling
better communication between instructor and trainee and the use of specialist teaching
aids, and will benefit the safety and welfare of the horses.
Substantial landscaping is proposed to enhance the visual appearance of the site.
It would enable the equestrian centre to consolidate its reputation as a high-class
training establishment at national and international level. Sport England, British Horse
Society and Surrey Police (the centre supplies horses to and trains officers of the force)
support the application and the Centre supplied horses to the 2001 Modern Pentathlon
There is inadequate provision for the covered storage of hay on the site. Hay is currently
stored off site and is subject to arson and weather damage. The proposed barn would
accommodate 60% of the total required for the year.
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Residential accommodation is required to ensure someone is on site for emergencies, ill
health and security. Because of the number of horses involved and to provide cover for
the owner, a second unit of accommodation is required. The multi occupancy block
would provide convenient low cost accommodation for staff and working students.
The proposal is the only viable way of securing and funding the restoration of the site
and to ensure that the remaining area retains its green appearance and prevents the
coalescence of the adjoining built up areas.
17 In response to those arguments, the following matters are considered to be relevant:
It is not accepted that the new buildings can be considered to be appropriate
development in the Green Belt. Paragraph 3.5 of PPG2 states that ”Essential facilities….
should be genuinely required for purposes of land, which preserve the openess of the
Green Belt and do not conflict with the purposes of including land in it. Possible
examples of such facilities include small changing rooms or unobtrusive spectator
accommodation for outdoor sport, or small-scale stables for outdoor sport and outdoor
recreation.” It is not considered that the amount of buildings proposed by this application
are genuinely required, and they appear to exceed “small -scale stables” which are
referred to in PPG2. The development cannot therefore be considered as appropriate
development within the Green Belt.
There is no question that the site and its buildings are unsightly and need improving,
and a reasonable level of development of the site could be justified, but not the amount
that is proposed by this application.
The new indoor riding school at 1200 sq. m. would itself have a footprint only slightly
less than the amount of the buildings to be removed, and have an estimated height of 4.5
metres to eaves and 6 metres to ridge. While such a building would clearly benefit the
Riding Centre it would be a substantial building in the landscape and clearly detrimental
to the character and openess of the Green Belt.
While an argument for a residential presence on the site could be accepted as essential to
the welfare of the horses, the level proposed could not be justified.
While it is appreciated that the storage of hay on site would be preferable for the Centre,
it is not considered that a building of a size to accommodate 60% of the annual
requirement could be justified.
18 In conclusion, it is considered that the proposals are neither appropriate
development in the Green Belt nor are there sufficient exceptional circumstances to make an
exception to national and strategic Green Belt policies. The proposals are understandably
aimed at providing the best facilities for the Riding Centre, but achieving this goal should
not be at the expense of the long established policies to protect the Green Belt, unless there
are exceptional circumstances to warrant such a departure.
Local planning authority’s position
19 The local authority has consistently refused planning permission for this type of
development and it is anticipated that this application will also be refused.
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Views of other organisations
20 A letter to the Mayor supporting the application has been received from the
Chessington Equestrian Centre Riders Support Group. They point out that:
The Centre offers a huge service to the local community, especially for local children as
the Centre is cheaper than other riding schools in the area.
The Centre teaches the disabled, the police and also pentathlon riders and holds many
fun days that are enjoyed by both riders and spectators.
The Council has received letters of support from bodies such as the Sports Council. The
British Showjumping Association, the Surrey Police, the World Pentathlon Association,
top showjumpers, riding for the disabled, Association of British Riding Schools, and the
Chessington Residents Association. Kingston Council has received over 80 letters of
support and we are about to submit to them a petition with over 500 signatures mostly
signed by local residents.
Comments from Transport for London
Impact on the Road Network
21 It is unlikely that the development will have a significant impact on the Transport
for London Road Network due to the distance of the site from it, but if the centre is to be
used to host major events there may be an impact. If the scheme were to be acceptable a
condition should be imposed to prevent such events.
Access to the Site
22 The information stated that 30 car parking spaces are to be provided, which shows
the development will be primarily accessed by car trips and it is considered that alternative
forms of travel would need to be promoted if the principal of the development were
23 The site is over 1km from a bus stop, which makes the site difficult to access by
public transport. As the development is likely to be used by a number of children it may not
be safe to promote walking from these bus stops to the stables, and this issue would require
further consideration if the scheme were to be granted planning permission.
24 Provision would need to be made for cycle parking in line with local UDP standards
to help to promote a more sustainable method of accessing the site, which should be
supported by further cycling facilities, i.e. changing, showering facilities and lockers.
Legal and Financial considerations
25 There are no issues raised by this report.
26 The proposals are considered to be inappropriate development within the Green Belt
and there is insufficient justification to support this development as an exception to national,
strategic and local Green Belt policy. However, in view of the existing development on the
site, and the need to improve the facilities on offer, a case could be substantiated for a
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reasonable level of development that could be supported in strategic terms, but not the
amount currently proposed by this application.
For further information, contact Planning Decisions Unit:
Giles Dolphin, Planning Decisions Manager
020 7983 4271 email email@example.com
Stewart Murray, Team Leader Development Control
020 7983 4493 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Taylor, Case Officer
020 7983 5752 email email@example.com
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