Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Councillors to debate future of garden centre

COUNCILLORS will debate the future of Hare Hatch Sheeplands next week.

The garden centre is accused by Wokingham Borough Council of using green belt land without permission and has been facing enforcement action for four years.

Owner Rob Scott claims the action threatens the future of the business, which supports more than 100 jobs.

Last month, he presented the council with a petition with more than 4,800 signatures, above the minimum threshold of 1,500 needed to trigger a council debate.

Mr Scott urged his supporters to attend the meeting at the council’s offices in Shute End on Thursday from 7.30pm.

He said: “This is a valuable opportunity for our supporters to demonstrate the depth of feeling in our favour.

“There will be an opportunity for some people to ask questions, although the council has set a time limit on this, but just by being there our loyal customers can show their support.”

The garden centre has been the subject of enforcement action since 2012 when Mr Scott was accused of breaching the green belt and extending a café and play area.

The council says that he ignored the enforcement notice, leaving it with “no choice” but to take legal action.

Mr Scott and seven businesses on the site have appealed against the notice and the case is due to be heard at the High Court.

In September, an appeal by Mr Scott against the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawful use was refused.

Planning officers said Mr Scott was unable to provide evidence that the developments were “established”, meaning they had been in use for 10 years or more.

Mr Scott said he had the proof but the council said it would not be able to grant the certificate anyway while the enforcement action was being taken.

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