A reform of an abuse-prone policy that turned stables into houses is being abandoned

The Planning Authority has stopped a reform on a policy on horse stables that was prone to abuse by developers, citing ‘animal welfare’ concerns

The reform intended to make it impossible for horse stables to be designed in a way that they could then be 'transformed' into a house
The reform intended to make it impossible for horse stables to be designed in a way that they could then be 'transformed' into a house

The Planning Authority has stopped the revision of a policy that was allowing the owners of horse stables, to turn them
into rural houses.

The proposed reform started two years ago to close the loopholes that were allowing abusive applications for horse stables, and since then the PA has continued to issue permits according to the 2014 rules.

A PA spokesperson said the process was halted because feedback during the public consultation stage showed that the reform would have had “serious negative impact” on animal welfare and on “the design of the stables”.

There were 49 applications for stables and horse-riding establishments that got permits by the PA in 2016 and 2017.

But the number shot up since 2013, from 10 to a record 52 in 2017. And while just 26 applications were presented between 2013 and 2015, a total of 98 were presented in 2016 and 2017.

The proposed revision was announced in February 2016, after the new rural policy guidelines of 2014 made it easier to build stables in the countryside.

In a bid to tighten the rules, the PA proposed that each individual stable be separated by a two-metre gap, so it prevents them from being abusively turned into dwellings.

The rules also allow the conversion of existing buildings “with architectural, historical or vernacular significance in rural areas” into stables or horse-riding facilities. Basements beneath stables were also proposed for elimination.

Stables can be constructed in most locations outside development zones, including buffer zones to Areas of Ecological Importance and Areas of High Landscape Value.

Any new stable must be located at a distance of not less than 100 metres from the development zone’s boundary.

The rules do not allow new stables to exceed a height of 3.5 metres above ground level and a total floor space of 25 square metres per stable, including ancillary facilities and storage space.

To eliminate abuse, the first draft rural guidelines had proposed that new stables should be built entirely in timber. This was changed in the approved policy, which permits the development of stables in stone-clad and natural timber up to five courses high. The rest of the height has to be developed in timber.