Do You Need Planning Permission For A Dog Field?

Do You Need Planning Permission For A Dog Field?

When we started to investigate how we could build our own secure dog field, there were a lot of things that came up that we hadn’t originally anticipated. We wanted to set up a secure dog field business that not only met the expectations of our customers, but that was a professionally run and managed operation, meeting all the legal and administrative requirements necessary. We quickly discovered that there was a lot more to consider than we initially imagined!

If you are planning to run a dog field as a commercial operation, renting your land to customers for the purpose of exercising dogs you will need consent from your local planning authority. In most areas this will require you to submit a full planning application. In rare cases planning authorities consent to issuing a certificate of lawfulness.

If you’re looking for planning application support or just need an assessment on suitability and planning approval likelihood, jump to the the bottom of this article (here) where you can find out more about how we can help. If you have already made an application and have been refused permission or have had unreasonable conditions applied, click here to read our article on the appeal process.

During our research we discovered that most dog field owners do not have planning permission for their fields, and many were unaware that they were required to have it. Whilst this may seem like an unnecessary hurdle to negotiate, there are a large number of reasons why the planning authorities currently require you to submit a full planning application and here we’ll go through the main issues they will consider when deciding whether you can proceed with your dog field business.

This can all be a little intimidating, especially if you have never made an application for planning permission before so here we will guide you through the most important things you need to know about planning permission for a dog field. 

Do All Types Of Land Require Planning Permission For A Dog Field?

Whether you are simply fencing an existing agricultural field, redeveloping a piece of land whose use is now redundant, or converting a piece of land from another use entirely, you will require permission from your local planning department if you want to use this land as a secure dog field. 

Most dog fields are being established from farmland as part of farm business diversification but that does not change the requirement for full planning permission. In some cases, for example where an extensive dog business such as a boarding kennel already exists, a certificate of lawfulness may be as much as is required, but an application still needs to be made in order to acquire the certificate.

Why Do I Need Planning Permission To Set Up A Dog Field?

If you have ever made a planning application, you might have felt like the only purpose of the planning officer is to make your life difficult or prevent you from doing what you want – whether that’s building a garage or extension on your house, changing the position of your drive, cutting down a tree or even changing the colour of your door! If you own a listed building or a property in a protected area, you will be all too aware of the challenges and restrictions posed by your local planning department. However, their job is important and here we will highlight the reasons that you need planning permission for a secure dog field.

Planning is necessary given the activities for a dog field are materially different to agriculture (or whatever the existing use is) and the impacts of such activities need to be assessed to determine their acceptability.

Safety – The planning department needs to ensure developments of all kinds are safe. In the case of dog fields, this largely relates to road access to the field, but also must ensure the safety of customers and dogs, and surrounding livestock where there is any. 

Safety of local livestock must be considered

Protect the Natural Environment – As part of the planning process, there are a number of parties that will have an interest in whether to grant your proposed dog field permission. Some of those will be responsible for ensuring that the plan you submit has no detrimental effect on the environment – from noise to flora and fauna and the landscape character of the area. Your dog field must not negatively impact the environment and there is no reason why every dog field cannot have a positive impact on the local environment.

Strategic Planning – all planning departments are responsible for delivering a long-term planning strategy (known as a ‘Local Plan)’. This document outlines how the area it governs can be developed over time and what key objectives they must achieve – this covers everything affecting our daily environment – housing, employment and infrastructure – from new schools and doctors surgeries to recreation and activities that support economic prosperity.

It is important that when you submit a planning application, you’ve taken account of this strategy and demonstrated how your dog field fits within this plan. All of these documents are available online from your local authority. There is also national planning guidance set by the Government that needs to be considered, this is the National Planning Policy Framework and you can download the latest version of it here.

Download them and grab a cuppa – they can be a dreary read!

Protect Nearby Residents – Local residents have the opportunity to comment on your planning application and will likely raise concerns relate to noise and increased traffic. These are important considerations that if not addressed properly could result in refusal. Your planning application must focus on anything you are intending to do that will mitigate any objections that people might have – noise and increased traffic are the biggest sticking points but there will be issues unique to your area and community. Keep in sharp focus that the planning department must ensure that your plan is compatible with surrounding uses.

If you are setting up a dog field and you have developed a plan that takes account of all the same considerations that a planning officer or committee will look at, there is no good reason not to submit a planning application prior to setting up your field. If you feel that you may face objections that would be legally valid and would cause a planning application to be refused, then you really need to think about whether you should proceed at all. 

The consequences of not applying for planning permission for your dog field can be inconvenient and costly at best, and devastating at worst as you may face an enforcement case and your business could be closed down. This not only affects you but also customers who may have come to rely on your services and makes it more challenging for future landowners to make successful planning applications in your area.

The 6 Main Planning Considerations When Setting Up A Dog Field

There are many things you need to address in your planning application dependent on your location and environment, but the six biggest considerations are:

1) Access

How are people going to get to your dog field? Do they access the land straight from a public highway? Is it safe? Do they have to cross private land and if so, is that access exclusively yours or are other people permitted rights of access over it?

Access to your field will be considered by the Highway Authority. They will determine whether your access is safe and can imposed conditions like improvement of visibility, dropping a curb or moving an access entirely – the list is extensive and must not be underestimated. 

Parking is also an important consideration and this is something we are increasingly coming across when visiting new fields – poor or dangerous parking provision. It’s really important to make sure all parking facilities do not have a negative impact on highway safety.

The local planning authority may also require a traffic survey in the area of your access and this is a cost you must cover as part of your application. This can be just a few hundred pounds up to several thousand.

2) Environmental Impact

You may not think that simply erecting a fence (or indeed replacing an existing fence), installing a gate and making it available for dog owners to use on an exclusive basis would create any environmental concerns. It does however, and if you do your research and manage any environmental concerns that may be raised by the planning department, not only will you have a positive impact on your local environment, but you will also create a better dog field. 

Issues such as protecting ancient woodland, hedgerows, wildlife and historic features such as ridge and furrow will be considered, and your plans may need to adjust to ensure the protection of these things. You may be required to conduct an ecological survey, again a cost that you as the applicant must cover. 

Protecting the characteristics of the open countryside and rural landscapes is particularly important in any planning application but especially where you are in an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or a National Park.

The impact your dog field may have on nearby residents will also be considered. Noise is an important consideration as part of the planning process in order to protect the amenity of nearby residents. There is a general perception, particularly by local residents that dog fields generate significant levels of noise, primarily via the barking, which would create unacceptable living conditions. Planning Officers may sometimes ask for a Noise Survey to demonstrate that this would not be the case. However it is important that we work to change the perception of dog fields. In most cases, dog fields create no more noise than a dog walkers using a public footpaths but it is your responsibility as a dog field owner to unsure that your customers are not disturbing neighbours. This is one of the reasons it is essential to keep easily accessible records and contact details of all your clients. This way, should you receive a complaint, you can investigate immediately and take any measures you feel necessary should the complaint be valid.

3) Waste

You must have a waste management strategy as part of a dog field business plan but this is not always required by Planning Officers. You should however be prepared to submit detailed plans if concerns are raise during consultation. Different authorities will have different views on how dog waste should be managed so it is advised to do some research and create a waste management plan that will satisfy your local planning authorities.

Knowing how you will manage dog waste is not just a planning concern, it should be in every dog field business plan

4) Benefits

Benefits of a dog field are also an important consideration and it’s nice to talk about the positive impacts your field will have! This can include supporting local farmers who are experiencing challenges with local dog walkers, providing a facility for those who might ordinarily need to employ a professional dog walker and even supporting local dog walkers and trainers in growing their own businesses but providing much needed secure facilities.

5) Location

Given their nature, dog fields usually require rural locations away from urban areas and this means car use to access them is required. As sustainability is part of every Local Plan, it is important that your planning application anticipates this as a potential point of note. There are ways that this can be presented that will support your application.

5) Operation

Planners will want to know how your business intends to operate. This will include your proposed opening hours, how many dogs will use the site at one given time, number of customers visiting per day, employment of any staff etc. You should consider your proposal carefully, taking into account what objections may be raised in relation to your dy to day operations.

When Should I Apply For Planning Permission For A Dog Field?

You should apply for planning permission prior to investing any time or money into setting up your dog field. 

The time, cost, and stress of making a retrospective planning application and potentially losing your established dog field business simply isn’t worth it. As previously mentioned, if you are confident that you would gain planning permission, delaying your application until you are forced to, or you want to further develop your business by way of a retrospective application, is a false economy both in time and money.

There are a variety of reasons why people don’t make a planning application prior to opening a dog field:

  • They don’t know they need to – hopefully British Dog Fields can help to highlight this and debunk myths around the planning requirements for secure dog fields
  • They are advised not to during our research we discovered that most land agents advise waiting to make any planning application until a formal complaint is made to the authorities. We cover this issue in an another article but this advice only further increases the fear that people have around making applications and in the long run, we believe is detrimental to the industry as a whole
  • They want to be confident of the demand for a secure dog field prior to investing time and money in the planning process – certainly a valid business reason for delaying an application but there are many methods of testing the market prior to any investment – before opening our dog field we had generated an email list of over 500 local dog owners and were extremely confident of the need for our secure dog field
  • They can’t afford to – whilst this may be true, it’s certainly not valid and unfortunately there are barriers to entry in every business venture
  • They don’t want to! Some people simply don’t believe that the planning process is relevant, fair, or applies to them. We understand the argument, why can’t we simply do whatever we want on our own land? You can hold that opinion and refute all the reasons listed above for needing planning processes to protect people and the environment but whether you like it or not, it’s the law and should you chose to ignore that, you may come a cropper
  • They are concerned they may not get permission – This is a valid concern because planning decisions can seem bonkers at times. However, we have a strong system in the UK that allows people to make planning applications, and a system that allows relevant parties to object to those proposals. There is also a process of appeal where if you believe your application has been unfairly refused or indeed objectors feel that an application has been unfairly granted, a higher authority is consulted and makes a judgement based on Policy Law alone and not on opinion

We have a strong system in the UK that allows people to make planning applications, and a system that allows relevant parties to object to those proposals. There is also a process of appeal where if you believe your application has been unfairly refused or indeed objectors feel that an application has been unfairly granted, a higher authority is consulted and makes a judgement based on Policy Law alone and not on opinion

How Long Does It Take To Get Planning Permission For A Dog Field?

It can take a long time to get planning permission for a dog field. Depending on your local authority and the complexity of your application, this process can take from 8 weeks to several months in the first instance. Where objections are raised, further surveys may be required or conditions need to be considered, this process can go on for a long time, in some cases years. 

This process has extended considerably since 2019 as planning offices have been dealing with a backlog of applications submitted during COVID where inspections could not take place. We are now seeing signs that Planning Departments are returning to their normal anticipated schedules.

This should not put you off making an application. In many cases, the application is straightforward. If a field is in a rural area, away from neighbours with good commercial access it theoretically should have no valid reason to be refused. In these cases, planning authorities are able to process these applications quickly as they simply remove one more piece of paper from their desks!

Do I Need Planning Permission For A Dog Field If I Rent Land?

It doesn’t matter whether you rent or own the land, planning permission is still required for establishing a secure dog field. The liability lies jointly between the landowner and the lease holder to ensure all the correct permissions are in place. How you agree to make the application is between you and the landowner.

As victims of an unscrupulous landlord and estate management agency, we strongly advise employing a specialist solicitor when signing a tenancy agreement of this kind. You must protect your business and your assets which heavily relies on the land you rent. Any planning application that is part of an agreement must be carefully managed.

We would strongly advise getting a planning consultant involved from the outset who can help manage an application of this kind and prevent it from becoming overly complicated.

Can I Get Planning Permission On Protected Land?

You can get planning permission for a secure dog field on protected land and precedent has been set in the UK for dog fields gaining planning permission in areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), National Parks and on land of special scientific interest. If you own land that is currently receiving payments as part of an environmental stewardship scheme or generates income from any government funded subsidy, you must establish what you are permitted to do on this land in relation to operating a dog field. Current advice from the NFU is to exclude the area you wish to turn into a dog field from any payment schemes.

We have concluded over time that the very best way to make a planning application for a secure dog field is with the help of a planning consultant. Their experience and network will speed up the process and may save you a lot of money and time. It is worth taking time to research planning consultants and talk to a few before making a decision about who to employ. As with local authority planning officers, there are still planning consultants that have little or no experience in making planning applications for secure dog fields. You may wish to employ someone with extensive local knowledge or an agency with specific experience in dog fields and we strongly suggest you have a discussion with the agent who would handle your case to determine if they really understand your needs.

England and Wales NPs and AONBs

When You Might Not Need Planning Permission For A Secure Dog Field

There are current permitted development rights that allow a temporary change of use of a piece of land – this is restricted to 28 consecutive days but was extended to 56 days to support land owners in the wake of the COVID pandemic. This reverted to 28 days on the 31st December 2021. These rights come with some caveats and strings attached to you should talk to your local planning department for clarification as to whether this permitted development applies to your land.

Starting Your Planning Application – Next Steps

The planning process can be quite daunting, especially when it’s make or break for your business idea. It can be even more challenging if you are looking to buy a field and are not sure whether you will be granted planning permission for a change of use – add into that the length of time it takes for an application to be considered and you may find the vendor tires of waiting for you to proceed with a sale.

However, the process itself can be extremely useful in terms of making sure your secure dog field set-up is well considered, user friendly and well supported by the local community – from where you will draw most of your business.

Increasingly, because of the amount at stake, prospective secure dog field owners are employing professional planning consultants to manage their applications. People I talk to are usually concerned about the costs of employing a planning consultant but actually, in most cases, it’s a false economy to take the task on yourself.

A planning consultant is already completely up to speed with the local strategic development plan and will know what the planning officer is looking for in a good planning application. They will also know if there are any particular concerns that have been raised about similar projects in the past and this alone will save you enormous amounts of time reading and researching. 

The planning agent will also have experience navigating the political aspects of your application and that will come in very useful if you face any objections from local groups or individuals.

Perhaps most relevant when it comes to making the decision to use a professional to help you obtain planning permission is that potentially, the time that they can save you by taking the application process out of your hands.

It is likely that they will navigate the system far faster than you are able to and you will be able to open your secure dog field sooner than if you choose to handle this process yourself. If you face any serious objections, you may end up having to employ a consultant anyway, further supporting our opinion that they are a vital player in establishing your business and making it a long term success.

We Can Provide an Assessment

If you’re starting up and you’re looking for support to get you through the first stages, take a look at our Start Up Consultancy. It’s £225, takes between 1 and 1.5 hours and prospective dog field operators find it really useful – especially when it comes to navigating the planning process. If you have a piece of land identified (whether you own it or you’re looking to buy or rent) we will take a look and assess it from 2 main perspectives:

  1. Suitability as a successful dog field
  2. Likelihood of raising serious planning objections

We do this in conjunction with planning consultancy partners who are specialists in this area.

If you want to know more about our Start-Up Consultancy, click the link below which will go through all the important information you need to know and show you how to book.

Further Reading

If you’d like to see some planning decisions, you can view or download the files below which are example of the various outcomes of a planning application for a dog field.

Examples of Planning Applications:

Granted – Secure Dog Field, Hertfordshire

Granted with Conditions – Secure Dog Field, West Sussex

Refused – Secure Dog Field, Derbyshire

Won on Appeal – Secure Dog Field, Staffordshire

Enforcement Notice Issued – Secure Dog Field, Hertfordshire

If you want some support when setting up your dog field, take a look at our consultancy services – whether you’re fresh to the business and haven’t a clue where to start, or are looking to increase your current bookings or dog field revenue, we have a range of services you might find useful.

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