Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Garden centre under new threat

A GARDEN centre involved in a planning row may be forced to close after all.

A GARDEN centre involved in a planning row may be forced to close after all.

Wokingham Borough Council is due to start enforcement action against Hare Hatch Sheeplands, near Wargrave, after ?exhausting all avenues? trying to find a solution to the long-running dispute.

Rob Scott, who owns the business, was first served with an enforcement notice for unauthorised expansion in 2012 after the council said he was using green belt land to display and sell conservatories and greenhouses and had extended the café and children?s play area.

Mr Scott started a campaign to keep the business open and Home Secretary and Maidenhead MP Theresa May offering to broker a deal between the two sides.

In January, the council insisted it wanted the business to stay open, saying it played an ?important role? in the community.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, planning officers said they were left with no choice but to refuse Mr Scott a certificate of lawful use for the extensions at the centre.

They said he was unable to provide evidence that the developments were ?established?, meaning they had been in use for 10 years or more. When asked to remove them, Mr Scott replaced them with further unauthorised extensions, showing a ?complete disrespect to green belt policy and the current enforcement notice?.

Clare Lawrence, the borough council?s head of development management and regulatory services, said: ?We have looked at every possible option within our control in the past few years to try to find a solution that wouldn?t undermine planning policies.

?We have tried but it is vitally important we uphold policy to ensure the green belt is protected in the future.?

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 was set for October 2013 but was postponed after the council withdrew the enforcement notice before issuing a new one due to what it called ?further unauthorised development?.

Mr Scott withdrew his appeal against the enforcement notice in April and submitted retrospective planning applications in July.

Mr Scott said: ?The council?s decision is a huge blow to the business, our employees, our suppliers, the community and our customers .We believe we made a strong case is proving our retail activities over the past 10 years. Our expert consultants also believed that we had done so but, sadly, the council did not agree. Our immediate concern is to inform our staff. Only then can we sit down and decide what happens next.?

Mr Scott says about 100 jobs would go if the business closed.

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