Indoor riding arena

Devon B&B owners win battle to stop neighbors building riding arena as it would ‘ruin’ sunset views

The owners of a B&B have won a court battle to stop their neighbors from blocking the view from their £1.25million country home by building a horse training centre.

Richard and Trudy Howell, who run the Little Norris guesthouse on their farm in North Huish, Devon, have been at odds with Craig and Jasbir Collins for almost three years.

The Collins had planned to build an indoor practice arena for their daughter Sharna, so she could practice her show jumping in bad weather.

Relations between the families had been strained since Mr and Mrs Collins bought the nine-acre property in 2019 and started running a boarding stable with their daughter.

The Howells, loving “peace and privacy”, then complained when the Collins were given permission to build the arena for their daughter.

The Howells, who have lived on the farm since 2003, took the case to court, complaining that the arena – known as the merry-go-round – would ‘spoil’ their view of the sunset and seriously affect their ‘enjoyment from their retirement in the countryside.

Now a judge in London has sided with the Howells and ruled the Collins facility can only be built with the approval of their neighbors.

Trudy Howel

Richard and Trudy Howell (pictured left and right respectively) have complained about their neighbors’ plans to build a horse arena on their farm

The Howells complained the building would spoil the view of the sunset from their £1.25million property (pictured)

The Howells complained the building would spoil the view of the sunset from their £1.25million property (pictured)

Craig and Jasbir Collins wanted to build the arena so their daughter Sharna (pictured) could train with the horses in bad weather

Craig and Jasbir Collins wanted to build the arena so their daughter Sharna (pictured) could train with it

The Howells, whose B&B is popular with folk musicians, complained that a horse transport truck and horse box were parked in the field, putting their new neighbors in breach of covenants on the lot, which means it could only be used for ‘sheep and horse grazing and agricultural use’.

They objected to the development, which included associated parking, and Mr and Mrs Collins then asked a court judge to have the covenants struck down, stripping their neighbors of the right to block the building.

Mr and Mrs Howell told Judge Martin Rodger QC in the High Court (Lands Chamber) that ‘imposing the ride on a largely natural and empty landscape would detrimentally and dramatically alter the view, seriously affecting their enjoyment’ .

They added that they “just wanted to live in peace and privacy, surrounded by the countryside in a tranquil setting interrupted only by occasional rural noises”.

But asking for the covenant to be changed, Mr and Mrs Collins said they were unaware of the full implications of the restriction when they bought the property.

They added that it could be “dangerous for the horses to train” outside on their sloping ground in wet and muddy conditions, also telling the judge that “horses exposed to muddy conditions can suffer from debilitating conditions such as hoof rot”.

But the judge, sitting with another member of the panel, gave the Howells victory, refusing to change the pact and concluding that if the ride was built ‘the skyline seen from the (Howells’) farm would be changed by permanently and not for the better.

Let’s make a decision, he said: ‘The amendment requested is to allow the construction of the riding arena on the property in accordance with the planning permission, and to allow the parking of vehicles and the use of the rest of the land for the exercise and the training of horses.

‘Mr and Mrs Howell’s objections were manifold and included deterioration of views to the west from their house and garden, damage to the general amenity and character of the farmhouse, noise intrusion and impact negative about privacy.

“On sunny evenings, from fall to spring, the couple loved to relax on the veranda and enjoy the view to the west.

“Imposing the ride on a largely natural and empty landscape would detrimentally and dramatically alter the view, severely affecting their enjoyment.

“In addition, the veranda is used by Ms Howell for her leisure and the adjoining garden is a private space used when there are paying guests in the holiday accommodation.

Judge Martin Rodger QC said the imposition of the equestrian arena

Judge Martin Rodger QC said imposing the equestrian arena would ‘detrimentally and dramatically alter the view, seriously affecting their (the Howells’) enjoyment’ of their property (pictured)

“Mr. and Mrs. Howell considered these advantages irreplaceable and simply wanted to live in peace and privacy, surrounded by the countryside in a tranquil setting interrupted only by occasional rural noises.”

He added that the panel was in no doubt that “the sun setting over the field presents a pleasing sight” during the summer months.

“That the construction of the ride interrupts this view is indisputable,” he said.

“The construction of the arena above a significant earthwork embankment will significantly alter the landscape in the immediate vicinity of the farm by creating a highly visible feature which will obviously be man-made.

“It will represent a substantial imposition on the landscape. The horizon seen from the farm would definitely be changed and not for the better.

The Collins have run a livery stable (pictured) with their daughter since buying the property in 2019

The Collins have run a livery stable (pictured) with their daughter since buying the property in 2019

Denying permission to relax the covenants, the judge said the equestrian arena would reduce the value of the Howell home if it were allowed to be built.

“Tranquility should not, in our view, be equated solely with peace,” he said.

“It encompasses a sense of calm and an absence of activity, especially repetitive activity.

“We have no doubt that the use of the arena will involve an increase in noise, from those riding, instructing or watching, but also from the horses themselves.

“There will be an inevitable increase in activity on the pitch and we believe the character of the setting will change from one that is currently entirely bucolic to one that is more bustling, more managed and less tranquil.

“The preservation of the current rural setting, regardless of fluctuations in market value, is a substantial advantage for opponents.

“We therefore conclude that none of the grounds for the request have been established.”