Monday, 20 September 2021

Petition to save garden centre form closing

MORE than 3,000 people have signed a petition to save a garden centre from closure.

MORE than 3,000 people have signed a petition to save a garden centre from closure.

Hare Hatch Sheeplands, near Wargrave, is in danger of shutting with the loss of more than 100 jobs after Wokingham Borough Council decided to start enforcement action following a long–running planning dispute with the business’s owner Rob Scott.

Mr Scott was first served with an enforcement notice for unauthorised expansion in 2012 when 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.

He started a campaign to keep the business open and Maidenhead MP Theresa May offeed 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 last month 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 because he was unable to provide evidence that the developments were “established”, meaning they had been in use for 10 years or more.

Customer Heather Mailley started the online petition which calls on the council to withdraw the enforcement notice. The 60–year–old care worker from Twyford, has been going to the garden centre for 12 years.

Mrs Mailley said: “The petition has been self–perpetuating as people have signed it and forwarded it to others who feel strongly.

“I think the council has to give people what they want. If the enforcement goes ahead the community here will lose too much. I don’t know if they will listen as they are digging their heels in.

“If the council pursues this it will mean closure of the centre as it can’t survive on just the plants sold. It’s not sustainable and it can’t compete with the other garden centres in the area.

“Hare Hatch Sheeplands generates £30,000 a year for Twyford Charities Together and other charities like Daisy’s Dream, Age Concern and Camp Mohawk. That’s a lot of money that will disappear from the community. It’s those people who are already vulnerable that will suffer.”

On Saturday, the garden centre’s monthly craft market took place for the last time. The council’s enforcement notice means the centre can no longer host the market, which has been running for nine years.

Mr Scott said: “Sadly, we have to close down the market because of the council’s action.

“This will hit local traders hard because the stallholders were all people who lived in the area, made the goods themselves and then came to the market to sell them. We are still open for business and our farm shop, coffee shop and plant areas are trading as normal.” Joan Langmaid, of Milestone Crescent, Charvil, had been a stallholder at the market for six years, trading as the Workshop of Granddad John, named after her late husband.

She said: “John made wooden objects for us to sell alongside my own knitted children’s toys. When he died this market was one of the things that kept me going and I have even started to make wooden items myself. I don’t know where I will go now.”

On Saturday stallholders were treated to a farewell drink and specially baked cake with an inscription tion that read “Goodbye craft market!”.

Mr Scott said: “I remain hopeful of sitting down with Wokingham Borough Council officials to have discussions on how we can move forward but for now I have no choice but to take the action demanded by them.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council recognises staff and customers of the business must be very upset.

“A number of people have commented that council is being unreasonable in its action and suggested it has ‘double standards’ in enforcing against Hare Hatch Sheeplands but not against other garden centres in the area. This is not the case, as the planning circumstances are very different.

“While the council has received a petition and emails supporting the retention of the business, it has also received complaints about the unauthorised nature of site.

“The council has a duty to uphold its policies and to enforce against unlawful development. It has to act as fairly as possible but inevitably, this does mean sometimes people feel their views and requirements are not met.”

To sign Mrs Mailley’s petition, visit hatch_sheeplands

More News:

POLL: Have your say