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Garden centre loses High Court battle over green belt row

Published: 22 February 2017 - Jenny Wonnacott

Hare Hatch Sheeplands, near Twyford, has lost a battle in the High Court over its use of green belt land.

Despite a lot of local support, Hare Hatch Sheeplands lost its battle against Wokingham Borough Council in the High Court this week
Despite a lot of local support, Hare Hatch Sheeplands lost its battle against Wokingham Borough Council in the High Court this week

Wokingham Borough Council was granted an injunction against the independent garden centre on Monday, after it was revealed in court that the centre had used 9,000 square metres of green belt land illegally. It means the landowner has 10 weeks to move, though there was reportedly some confusion over the wording of the injunction in court.

An enforcement notice was first issued by Wokingham Council in 2012 after the centre expanded into buildings on green belt land.

Although High Court judge Karen Walden-Smith granted Wokingham Borough Council the injunction, she pointed out that it needed to be re-drafted to make it understandable.

She added, "Even if there is a general and widespread support of this business, as I am told there is, that does not circumvent the need for planning control.

"The defendants have failed to comply with the enforcement notice over a number of years and, by additional businesses being brought on to the land while enforcement notice is in force, shows a clear and wilful intention to breach planning control."

Wokingham Councillor Mark Ashwell, who is executive member for planning and regeneration, said, “This is a difficult situation because we know there is local support for Hare Hatch Sheeplands and that some businesses on the site will be adversely affected by the judgement.

"But the truth is, while we've been seeking a compromise with the landowners in good faith, they've been using more and more green belt illegally."

Hare Hatch Sheeplands owner Rob Scott said, in a statement, “We'd like to reassure all of our customers that we are open and it is 'business as usual'. Potential courses of action will be decided over the next week or two as we sit down with our legal team to discuss what the options are.”

“I will not make any decisions on future action until after we have seen the reworded [injunction] document and I will be guided by the opinion of my legal representatives."

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