Friday, 24 September 2021

Garden centre in planning row set to survive

A GARDEN centre threatened with closure due to planning dispute is set to stay open after all.

A GARDEN centre threatened with closure due to planning dispute is set to stay open after all.

Hare Hatch Sheeplands in London Road was served with an enforcement notice for unauthorised expansion by Wokingham Borough Council in 2013.

The council said owner Rob Scott was using green belt land to display and sell conservatories and greenhouses and had extended the café and children’s play area.

Mr Scott said that if the enforcement action went ahead he would have to close the business with the loss of up to 100 jobs.

Now the council says it wants to reach a compromise because the business has an “important role” in the community. In a statement issued on Wednesday, it said: “Wokingham Borough Council continues to work with the owner of the garden centre at Hare Hatch Sheeplands to try to find a solution which will allow the business to continue on site.

“While the site falls within the green belt and has been operating as a garden centre without meeting planning regulations, the council recognises the business has an important role to play in the local area.

“It is committed to find a solution through negotiation with the owners but it must ensure the green belt is protected from unacceptable development.”

The council first accused Mr Scott of 15 planning breaches in October 2012 after he submitted a planning application for a £2 million renovation of the centre, off London Road.

A hearing due to take place in October 2013 was postponed after the council withdrew the enforcement notice but it then issued a new one due to what it called “further unauthorised development”. Mr Scott withdrew an appeal against the enforcement notice in April and submitted retrospective planning applications for the unauthorised buildings in July.

Last month, the council asked Mr Scott for further information on how the centre uses its land before deciding what action it should take against the planning breaches.

Councillor John Kaiser, executive member for highways and planning, said: “We are now waiting for the additional information to be provided in the hope that a solution can be found in the very near future that will not undermine our planning policies.

“We have been in negotiations with the owner since October 2012 after a number of planning breaches.

“We have a duty to protect the open character of this area.”

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