Northumberland horse riding school served notice to leave site - but clings on to hope of operating at reduced capacity

A Northumberland riding school has been served 60 days’ notice to leave stables being demolished for a planned housing development.
Townfoot Stables, near Shilbottle.Townfoot Stables, near Shilbottle.
Townfoot Stables, near Shilbottle.

Townfoot Stables, which has operated from Townfoot Farm, near Shilbottle, for 23 years, must now find new homes for the majority of its 30 horses.

Townfoot Farm owner Anthony Stoker said: “The plans have not been approved officially yet but I’m expecting that in the coming days, and the tenants have been served a notice to quit the stables being demolished.

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“There will be 11 stables remaining and I have always said that they are welcome to continue using them but, in my heart of hearts, I think they will find it extremely difficult with the noise and disturbance.

Townfoot StablesTownfoot Stables
Townfoot Stables

“It’s a very difficult situation but I’ve had to sell those buildings for development,” he added.

Despite the shock of having been served notice to leave, Townfoot Stables tenant Andrea Simpson remains hopeful that the riding school will still be operational at a reduced capacity.

She said: “We’ve had further discussions and been told that if we want to run the riding school it’s up to us but it will be very restrictive because there will be so few stables.

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“There are building regulations which mean there is still an opportunity to operate on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and in the evenings – maybe 50 per cent of what we would normally do.

“We will continue to look for another premises long-term but it may mean that we don’t have to shut down immediately.”

There are 44 stables at Townfoot at the moment and Andrea is in the process of moving her own horses and retired school horses to new accommodation.

“It would leave a small core of working horses in the yard,” she said, although the loss of her livery business will hit her income.

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The seven-home development by Northumberland Homes, which already has outline planning permission, proposes a mix of four and five bedroom homes.

The news has caused consternation with over 600 people signing a petition which seeks to make Northumberland County Council aware of the potential impact.

Hippotherapy Northumberland, a club which uses the facilities for children with disabilities, has expressed its dismay on social media.

‘We are deeply sorry that such a 'jewel in the crown' of north Northumberland looks soon to be lost,’ they posted on Facebook.

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The Alnwick branch of Riding for the Disabled, which provides pony riding opportunities to the pupils of Barndale House Special School in Alnwick, has also expressed concerns in an objection to the proposed housing development.

Another user, Gwen Nyberg, from Shilbottle, added: “It’s the only riding school within 20 miles or so. There are 75 regular users of the establishment and it’s always very busy through the summer and at weekends.”

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