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Hare Hatch Sheeplands in fresh planning dispute with council over Christmas trees

Christmas may be cancelled at Hare Hatch Sheeplands after Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) refused to consider a planning application by its owner to sell Christmas trees and related items over the festive period.

Sheeplands owner Rob Scott has accused WBC of being ‘vindictive’ and said that the loss of income at such a vital time would then put the future of the entire business in jeopardy.

Mr Scott said: “From my point of view the council has been totally vindictive towards us and it almost seems as if there has been some sort of campaign to close me down.”

Sheeplands submitted an application on Tuesday, September 26.

“To my shock and dismay the council refused to even consider it,” added Rob.

Rob said that after his legal advisers made contact with the council he received a written apology and confirmation the council would consider the application.

Despite this, Mr Scott said his legal team received a second communication that said the council will seek ‘senior counsel’s' advice on whether or not it could refuse to consider the

application.

In a statement WBC executive member for planning and enforcement, Cllr Simon Weeks (Cons, Finchampstead South) cited Sheeplands’ previous enforcement notices and failure to comply with a court order.

The garden centre was embroiled in a long-running planning dispute with the council, which took out an enforcement notice again ‘unauthorised developments’ earlier this year.

Mr Weeks added: “Under S70C of the Town and Planning Act, the council declined to determine the recent application to use part of the land for retail sales.

“The land owner’s solicitors have queried this decision, and so the council is seeking further legal advice.”

However a statement from Sheeplands said: “Simon Weeks from WBC misses the point in his statement.

“In particular he fails to mention that Sheeplands is now fully compliant with all planning requirements.

“More public money is now being wasted on legal fees by the council in what many people see as their latest attempt to shut down a lawful business.”

Mr Scott added that he has since sought advice from one of the country’s leading experts in planning matters and said he was told he was able to sell Christmas trees from the car park, which is legally within the planning consent the garden centre already has.

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