A Fresh Start for Sheeplands

July 19, 2017 - High Court

The long running planning dispute between Hare Hatch Sheeplands and Wokingham Borough Council is now over.

In the High Court on Wednesday Mr. Justice Lavender accepted that Sheeplands owner Rob Scott has complied with the terms of the injunction issued against him.

"The good news is that this brings matters to a close," said Mr.Scott after the hearing. 

“Not only is the verdict of the judge a huge relief, it is also a tribute to the effort our employees have put in over the past few weeks. They have worked so hard to make sure we met all of the council's requirements. 

"Now I can look forward to revitalising the business by working closely with the council in a spirit of cooperation. We need to take steps to ensure that we can remain a financially viable concern that still meets the needs of our customers and the local community. 

“Our loyal customers have shown their tremendous support over the past few weeks by backing our sale of stock and we look forward to repaying that loyalty as we move forward into a new era.”

As some of the changes required by the council were made after the date set by the court Mr.Scott accepted that he had breached the injunction. For that he was given a two month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

In passing sentence Mr. Justice Lavender said that after examining the evidence he accepted that Sheeplands had "taken the opportunity to purge your contempt."

 

June 30, 2017 - High Court Hearing

Today at the High Court hearing Justice Lavender ruled that to keep Rob out of jail, Sheeplands must FULLY comply with the Injunction
by July 17.

The ruling requires Sheeplands to immediately stop the sale of ALL retail products (including plants and gardening products), unless they
are physically located within the Farm Shop.

The argument in the High Court, presented by the Council, was that Sheeplands is not a plant nursery and therefore all retail activity
outside of the Farm Shop breaks the terms of the injunction.

A further aspect of the ruling was that the Fishmonger could not be re-located in the Farm Shop at this point in time, but could be part of
a future planning application once the site was fully compliant.


Meanwhile ..........

The Farm Shop is OPEN

The Coffee Shop is OPEN

We now need our loyal customers to continue supporting the Farm Shop and Coffee Shop. Our plan is to achieve compliance by July 17
and demonstrate this to the High Court on July 19. At this point we will be able to approach the council with planning applications to
re-build the business and develop the Sheeplands site in a manner that receives their support.

Please HELP us NOW by shopping in the Farm Shop. Show your supermarket loyalty card to receive a 10% discount. ALL plants and gardening products are now HALF-PRICE and available in the Farm Shop.

 

May 1 Compliance

Following the disappointing outcome of the Injunction Hearing, the Sheeplands business is now making every effort to be fully compliant with the injunction requirements by Monday May 1. This will entail a number of changes to the business including the necessity for several concession businesses to leave the site. However, Sheeplands remains in business, just streamlined down to the following:

  • Farm Shop
  • Plant Centre
  • Gardening accessories
  • Jon Thorner's Butchery
  • Fish Glorious Fish
  • Coffee Shop

The concessions that have been served notice to leave by May 1 include:

  • Garden Trends
  • Granite Transformations
  • Quality Garden Buildings
  • Bell Antiques
  • Petstop
  • Deep End Pools (already relocated to the Wyevale site)

In addition, a few other product ranges and areas of the site will be closed at 4 pm on May 1 as follows:

  • Coffee Shop lounge and garden
  • Klass clothing
  • Gifts and toys
  • Cards and calendars

The Sheeplands site will be compliant, in accordance with the injunction, by May 1. In the longer term, the new management team at Sheeplands, has plans to expand the community and horticultural aspects of the site, so watch this space for further developments.

 

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.

Thank you.

Rob Scott

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.”

Update: 13/07/2016

Dear Friends,

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.

Update: 04/05/16

 

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.


Other wards
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 

 

 

Update: 30/04/2016

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:

Twyford
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


Charvil
Emma Hobbs - Conservative - Always been a supporter and has some sway over the sitting councillors
Nick Ray - Independant
Brian Scott - Lab
 

Hurst
Paul Trott - Lib Dem
Long term supporter


Maiden Erleigh
David Hare - Lib Dem
Long term supporter
 

Winnersh
Steven Lloyd - Green Party
Came to visit especially as he had never been
 

Emmbrook
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

Other wards
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.

 
Update: 25/03/2016

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 can do that by emailing planning.enquiries@wokingham.gov.uk, or completing an online comment form at www.wokingham.gov.uk.
 
“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.
 
“We are working hard on a plan which would allow us to continue providing the facilities that our customers welcome and expect,” said Mr. Scott.


Link to How to Comment on a planning application WBC
Link to read/see our planning applications in Planning Applications (search by the ref numbers given above)


Thank you for reading & thank you for your ongoing support.

Warmest regards,

Rob, Andy, Andrea and the team,

rob@hhsheep.co.uk
0118 9704690

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

Dear  friend,

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    john.kaiser@wokingham.gov.uk

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

Kind regards

 

Rob

Robert Scott

Director -Hare Hatch Sheeplands 

rob@hhsheep.co.uk  0118 9704690