A top rider is hoping to open an Olympic level equestrian centre near Darlington.

Plans have been submitted for the facility near Heighington which would help develop youth and para sport in show jumping.

Philippa McKeever, who has represented Great Britain and has ridden at international level in both show jumping and eventing, has had to move away from her equestrian centre in Blaydon and is hoping to start again in Darlington.

Plans have been lodged for an equestrian facility and stud, with full disabled facilities for students, on land at Fowler House Farm, in Houghton Bank

The site has access onto the A68 off Houghton Bank, between Darlington and West Auckland.

A planning statement submitted on behalf of Ms McKeever says: “Originating from a working class family she has a strong work ethic and unrivalled commitment to developing equestrian sport and youth and para riders.

“She has worked very hard to achieve what she has and sadly due to the combination of the Covid pandemic and personal circumstances she was forced to move from her self-built equestrian facility and home in Blaydon and is hoping to start once again in Darlington.

“Her young son has now settled in the church school in High Coniscliffe and she is keen to build an outstanding Olympic standard training facility so she can continue to make a huge impact in youth and Olympic sport whilst maintaining her role as a mum.”

The development would include a stable block with enclosed arena, detached garage with disabled lecture room and laundry, a tack toom and place to park horse transportation vehicles.

Part of the roof of the garage and stable block will be fitted with solar panels designed to operate a ground source heat pump. This renewable source will provide the power and hot water requirements for the proposed development.

The planning statement adds: “The proposed development is to train and house a string of sports horses and to provide a facility in the form of an outdoor sand riding arena for which to coach clients on their own horses, including para athletes.”

The plans have been submitted to Darlington Borough Council and can be viewed on the authority’s planning portal.


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