Injunction Hearing - Jan 23 - 26
Over 4 days, from Monday 23 January, to Thursday 26 January, the Sheeplands Injunction Hearing was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
As well as the Sheeplands management team, the concession businesses were represented at proceedings, along with a number of very loyal and supportive customers. The first two days were taken up with legal arguments, and adjournments for documents to be considered. There then followed 2 days of evidence and argument presented firstly by Wokingham, followed by Sheeplands. At the end of the hearing the judge committed to providing a written ruling within two weeks. We are therefore awaiting the outcome which should be with us by Friday 10 February.
We'll update everyone as soon as we hear. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome.
Update: January 2017
Thank you to all our friends, supporters and suppliers that attended the petition hearing in November. While the management of proceedings and the lack of a real debate were disappointing, the calm, concerned and considered representation at the meeting, definitely made a positive impression.
The next step is the Injunction hearing, which was due to take place later this month, but has been postponed due to the unavailability of key representatives. A new date should be set very shortly. It is difficult to predict the outcome of the hearing, but the likelihood is that it will do very little to settle the dsipute; more likely it
In the meantime, the Sheeplands business continues, and we are always open to a discussion with Wokingham and a negotiated settlement.
We'll keep you, our valued customers, informed of developments.
Update: 29 July 2016
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD - Please sign our NEW Petition
As I am sure you already know the council refused to accept the petition you signed in support of Hare Hatch Sheeplands. That’s because, under the council constitution, they are not able to accept petitions related to planning issues. Since the online and paper petitions were submitted to Wokingham Borough, the total number of signatures has risen to nearly 12,000.
If you don’t want the council to ignore you there is now another chance to make your views heard. Please sign our new petition right now at: http://www.petitions24.com/make_your_voice_heard_about_hare_hatch_sheeplands#form
The new petition does not mention planning. As you can see from the wording it simply asks the council to offer us the support we need to continue as a financially viable business and provide the many community benefits we know you appreciate. Use the petition to tell Wokingham Borough Council that you will not allow them to ignore the views of so many local people.
There is a paper petition at Sheeplands & the online petition with the address given above. Can you please sign now or within the next week or two? You should sign either the online or the paper version – but not both. Please also make sure that you only sign once. Even if you signed the first petition we DO need you to sign this new version in order to make your views known. It will allow us to make it clear to the inquiry inspector that, despite Wokingham’s intransigence, you are not willing to give up the fight to save Sheeplands.
If the council gets its way the loss of income will force Hare Hatch Sheeplands to close down. If you don’t want that to happen then make sure you sign the new petition.
You have given Hare Hatch Sheeplands magnificent support in the past. Please now do it again.
Press Release - 18 July, 2016
Wokingham Borough Council's attempt to shut down businesses and activities at Hare Hatch Sheeplands Garden Centre failed in the High Court on Friday.
At an injunction hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, the presiding judge Mr.Justice Edis adjourned the procedings to a later date.
At the hearing it became clear that Mr. Scott's lawful use evidence could not be heard properly at the coming public inquiry because of the existence of the enforcement notice.
The judge therefore directed that further evidence of the agreement made by Mr. Scott with various councillors in March 2014, which led to him withdrawing his appeal, was critical.
Furthermore he felt that this evidence should be heard in the High Court rather than by the planning inspectorate. He set strict dates for the production of evidence so that the outcome could be made available to the planning inspector before the inspector makes his decision following the September public Inquiry. This takes place at Shute End on the 6th, 7th & 8th of September.
Mr. Scott said, "I will be providing this evidence of the agreement with the councillors immediately as the future of HHS depends on it. I will now ask Mr Couldrick (Chief Executives of WBC) to encourage the council to do likewise.
“ It was at Mrs Theresa May's constituency meeting back in February 2014 that Councillor John Halsall first became involved in trying to help Hare Hatch Sheeplands. He told me that the council would welcome a compromise that would avoid the cost of the impending public inquiry.
“However, the spiralling costs associated with further legal action will severely stretch the business and it would be so much easier for Wokingham Borough Council to stop the injunction process, withdraw the enforcement notice and start meaningful negotiations towards a compromise for the whole site.”
As many of you will know the May 5 injunction hearing was postponed and is now scheduled for later this week; Friday 15 July. Following this hearing we hope to have a better understanding of the options for the business which we'll be sure to inform you about.
Dear Friends of Hare Hatch Sheeplands,
This update relates to ....
1. The injunction hearing 5 May 2016 (tomorrow) &
2. Local council candidates in support of Hare Hatch Sheeplands
The Injunction Hearing
Following a meeting between myself & our legal representatives on Tuesday we are able to give you some updated information about Thursday’s legal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand.
Only one hour had been allocated by the courts to this hearing. Our legal representatives those of Wokingham Borough Council agree that because of the complexity of the case this is likely to be insufficient time to deal with the matter.
For this reason both parties will ask on Thursday for the hearing of Wokingham Borough Council’s application for an injunction to be re-scheduled. This is unlikely to be before mid June.
The concessions trading at Hare Hatch Sheeplands and I are not required to attend on Thursday and no decision on the application will be made then.
Candidates in Support
Further to our email last week we were delighted to hear from other candidates who are up for election & who are in support of HHS.
I have met with Wayne Smith - Hurst (Cons) who was away with work when our e-mail was sent and is along with his family a customer and supporter. He has pledged to do all he can to talk with the relevant people and try to get common sense to prevail. I wish him well on Thursday and believe he has your views and our business firmly in mind.
Nigel Harman - Lib Dem - Bulmershe and Whitegates (Woodley) has also emailed that he agrees we should be treated in a fair and equitable manner.
Please see our email of the 29th April 2016 below
Thank you for your continued support!
Rob and the team at Hare Hatch Sheeplands
If you missed the last few emails on this matter - here they are:
April 29th, 2016 - Save Sheeplands - your vote might count
April 19th,2016 - How you can help Hare Hatch Sheeplands (deadline for help expired)
Dec 18th, 2015 - Planning Update
Save Sheeplands - The News Gets Worse / Your vote will count on May 5th
Dear Friends, 29 April 2016
I have just learnt that our dispute with WBC has just worsened. Not only have WBC chosen to refuse your petition of support, now over 10,000 unique signatures but worse have applied for an injunction against me and 7 of our family run concessions. We all have to appear at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand next Thursday 5th May 2016 accused of ignoring the terms of an enforcement notice.
This is frankly ludicrous when we are due to defend our position at a public inquiry in September when our appeal is to be heard by an independent inspector.
They are seeking to have the garden centre and most of its concessions shut down within 14 days leaving only the farm shop, part of the café and nursery. Needless to say we will be defending our position vigorously to ensure the future for our employees and concessions, their families and you our wonderful customers.
Ironically, this is the day of the local elections and although I do not like to get involved in politics normally I have been asked by so many customers which candidates are supportive of our business that I wrote to them all inviting them to state their position on our business. Of the 39 candidates standing for election 11 have so far answered. Of these 4 are Lib Dems 2 are cons. 2 labour, 2 Greens and 1 independent. All are supportive and some are super supportive.
All I can say is that the following candidates are 100% behind us and have promised to fight our corner if elected. I believe it is only by getting a more balanced council that democracy will work at WBC. At the moment they are ignoring the wishes of our 10,000 plus supporters and trying to shut us down “in the public interest” as stated in the injunction papers.
The candidates who I think would fight hardest for our cause are:
Lindsay Ferris - Lib Dem
Unstinting support over the years
Merv Boniface - Cons
Visited to confirm his support
Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe - Our home ward and where I live
Martin Alder - Lib Dem - visited to state his support
Stuart Crainer - Lab
Emma Hobbs - Conservative - Always been a supporter and has some sway over the sitting councillors
Nick Ray - Independant
Brian Scott - Lab
Paul Trott - Lib Dem
Long term supporter
David Hare - Lib Dem
Long term supporter
Steven Lloyd - Green Party
Came to visit especially as he had never been
David Worley - Green Party
Came to visit especially as he had never visited the site. Wrote a blog which you can all read here. 100% support http://davidworley.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/hare-hatch-sheeplands-garden-centre.html?m=1
Please ask the candidates themselves as I have no direct knowledge of their views.
I would like to thank them all for their support along with everyone who has signed our petition and sent letters of support as we fight for justice and democracy and remind everyone that in local elections only a few votes can make a big difference.
Kind regards and heartfelt thanks for your support,
from Rob and all of the employees and concessions at Hare Hatch Sheeplands.
Petition Handed in to full Wokingham Borough Council Meeting 24/3/2016
Last night, your petition to Save Hare Hatch Sheeplands, was presented to a full Wokingham Borough council meeting. Patrick Heather, a member of the public from Twyford, presented this petition and had one minute to speak. He was cut off with only 5 lines left to go - these 5 lines most significantly contained the final numbers. Around 25 staff, associates & friends of Hare Hatch Sheeplands attended in the public gallery.
It's suffice to say we are disgusted but not surprised about the treatment Patrick received in not being able to finish his brief speech on your behalf.
Unique WBC residents 2902 *
Unique non-WBC residents 5306
Total unique petitioners 8208
(*a figure of 1500 is enough to trigger a special council meeting on the matter if they wish too)
[The total number of signatures was in fact 9179 / Duplicates removed 971 - many of you have signed twice or more, which I think shows the depth of your feelings - thank you]
Press Release: Dec 2015.
TWO PLANNING APPLICATIONS & AN APPEAL. Can you help?
Customers of Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre in Twyford have been reminded that they have only a few days left in which to support the centre’s current planning applications.
At the invitation of Wokingham Borough Council the garden centre’s owners have applied for planning permission for a children's farm, play area, coffee shop outdoor area and dog friendly lounge.
In addition they seek approval to move the Pet Stop store from the premises in which it is currently open and trading into a different and existing location on the site.
“We know how popular these facilities are with our customers,” said centre owner Rob Scott, “but they only have until December 29 to register their support.
“They need to select Planning & Building Control>Planning Application>Comment on a planning application.
“Another way of registering support is by sending a letter to the Development Manager, Po Box 157 at Wokingham Borough Council.”
The key reference numbers for the applications are 152748 for the proposed change of an existing building to retail (for the movement of Pet Stop into this space) and 152747 for the proposed change of land and building to children's play area and recreational farm.
The centre’s owners, who have been operating from the site since 1993, have also launched an appeal against the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawful use.
That appeal will be considered by a Government appointed inspector and is expected to be considered at a public enquiry in the New Year.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It has been a long time since I last wrote to you all and I am sure that you must have thought that all was well now with our planning negotiations with WBC.
Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth and we have endured a frustrating year as more and more delays and obstacles have been put in our path.
On the 31st March this came to an end when WBC issued a refusal to our lawful use application and simultaneously started legal proceedings to force compliance with the enforcement notice issued in August 2013.
On the 31st March this came to an end when WBC issued a refusal to our lawful use application and
simultaneously started legal proceedings to force compliance with the enforcement notice issued in August 2013.
My legal advisor says there is nothing that can be done to stop this process even if we appeal the refusal of the lawful use decision.
I now have to prepare a plan of compliance that is "reasonable" to Wokingham and which could lead to the closure and removal of everything other than the farm shop, coffee shop and plant nursery (only home grown plants permitted, not even compost, bulbs or tools).
At the present time we have decided to close the play area and children’s farm, we are also stopping events (including our fundraising grotto & popular craft market). We are cancelling all work experience placements & rationalising our staffing.
We have already shown through our financial justification for a previous compromise scheme that a business reduced to this level is not viable on this site. We are therefore at the mercy of the Wokingham planners.
I have attached a press release today and would ask you to consider letting Wokingham and your local councillors and prospective MP’s know your views in the hope that once again public pressure will help the powers that be see sense before it is finally too late.
I feel it is important that our supporters make their views known again to people such as
The Chief Executive of WBC – Mr Andy Couldrick Andy.Couldrick@wokingham.gov.uk
Executive Member for Planning and Highways, John Kaiser email@example.com
Head of Development Management and Regulatory Services - Clare Lawrence Clare.Lawrence@wokingham.gov.uk
AN ONLINE PETITION CAN BE FOUND HERE - we would urge you to email AND to sign the petition if possible
LATEST UPDATE to this petition is on the page marked Announcement 2
I am sorry to bring you this bad news and thank you all for the support and help you have given us all here at Hare Hatch Sheeplands. Please let me know if you can think of any other avenues that can be followed.
For now it’s business as usual
Read more (look to the right of this page for historical documents, the most recent are linked to below)
WBC Refusal & PR statement 30 March
Director -Hare Hatch Sheeplands
firstname.lastname@example.org 0118 9704690