Horse riding school near Soulbury battles to stop new car park blocking off yard

A horse riding school in LBO land is locked in a battle with Bucks County Council and developers who plan to build a car park blocking the entrance to its yard.

Tuesday, 4th June 2019, 1:44 pm
Hayley Ward with a young foal

Hayley Ward has run Liscombe Equestrian Centre near Soulbury for 18 years but says she was blindsided by planning permission for the neighbouring business park.

Ms Ward is currently entangled in a complex web of land ownership involving two local authorities, her previous landlord and the new developers.

Worried about the future of her business, she said: “I always knew there would be offices built there, but I did not know they had planned eight car parking spaces cutting off the access to my yard.”

Hayley Ward with a young foal

Despite being a direct neighbour, Ms Ward was not among the list of consultees for the application – a move which planning authority Aylesbury Vale District Council has defended as legally sound.

She said: “I already have a car park next to my stables which is five times too large for me and my customers.

“I’ve offered a land swap to Bucks County Council, if only they’ll give me back the patch of land on the entrance to my yard.”

Ms Ward previously leased all of the land covering Liscombe Equestrian Centre and the neighbouring business park. Her difficulties began in 2012, when she agreed to land changes proposed by her-then landlord.

Two horses in the yard

She said: “I was assured it wouldn’t affect the running of my business, otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to it.”

Four years later in 2016, the land was sold to Bucks County Council at a cost of £1.7m as part of its property investment programme. At the time, the council said taxpayers would make a profit of around £32,000 a year from the equestrian centre, with a rental income of £119,000 per year and a “secure” tenant on site.

Planning permission for the business park was granted by Aylesbury Vale District Council in 2018. The design and access statement for the application merely describes the equestrian centre as “further south” and points to its furthest-away stable as its location on the site map.

Ms Ward added: “I’ve paid a fortune in rent and business rates for 18 years and I feel as though I’m being shut down by the men in black suits. I absolutely will not go down without a fight.”

Access to this yard would be blocked by the new car park

John Chilver, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Resources, said: "We always endeavour to be a good landlord, and worked very closely with Ms Ward after we bought the equestrian centre to fund a number of improvements.

“The land in question had already been surrendered by Ms Ward to another purchaser and therefore wasn't included in the original sale to the County Council, which limits what we're able to do. However, we will continue to seek ways to best resolve this issue.”