Permission to demolish riding stables in Stevenage and build 17 houses in their place is being sought after the equestrian centre was forced to close due, in part, to "a progressive downturn in business".

Last week, a planning application was submitted to Stevenage Borough Council for approval to demolish Courtlands Riding Stables in Todds Green, with plans to build 11 three-bedroom and six four-bedroom houses on the site.

The Old Chantry Lane stables, which opened in 1977, permanently closed on April 6, affecting three part-time staff.

Owner Jacky Halling said it had become "increasingly obvious" the family business was "becoming unprofitable".

She said: "Unfortunately, over the past 10 years we have seen a progressive downturn in business, with so many other activities coming along, including a lot of indoor adventure centres."

Jacky said other factors leading to the closure included competition from other riding schools in the area, the cost of hay almost doubling year on year, and the buildings on the site being in a state of disrepair, with the large indoor riding school building requiring "some serious works to the roof".

The Comet: The current site at Courtlands Riding Stables in StevenageThe current site at Courtlands Riding Stables in Stevenage (Image: Courtlands Riding Stables)

She said: "I have thought long and hard for a number of years about my future and the future of my business, and feel now is the time to wind things down.

"I am coming to a natural retirement, as are many of my horses and ponies, and there are no other family members in a position to take over from me.

"With the need to repair and rebuild, and also buy in many more horses and ponies to keep the business viable, it just is not possible to keep the business going.

"Without heavy investment...there is no way the business can move forward.

"The Halling family would like to thank everyone who has supported Courtlands over the years. We will miss you all."

News of the closure has led to hundreds of messages of support and nostalgia. One said: "Courtlands has been our happy place, our home from home. We have made so many friends and we will miss everyone so much. Thank you for the amazing times and the fabulous memories."

Another said: "From my heart, thank you for all your effort in making riding such a pleasure at Courtlands. It is truly a special place."