10:34AM, Thursday 28 April 2016
Andy Dickson with the petition
The petition supporting Hare Hatch Sheepland’s bid to remain open has been rejected by the council – despite reaching more than 10,000 signatures.
It was dismissed by Wokingham Borough Council on the grounds it does not accept petitions relating to planning decisions.
The move comes four weeks after a speech by the campaigner presenting the petition, Patrick Heather, was controversially cut short at a council meeting by the mayor.
On Tuesday Clare Lawrence, the council's head of development management and regulatory services, said: “Unfortunately, the petition refers to an enforcement notice that has been deemed to constitute a ‘planning decision’.
“Under the council’s constitution, petitions which refer to ‘any matter relating to a planning decision’ cannot be accepted.”
A Sheeplands spokesman said: “This answer begs question of why did the council allow Patrick to present his petition in the first place, knowing that it related to a planning decision?”
Sheeplands has been contacting councillors to ask if they support the business. It aims to publicise their responses ahead of next week's local elections on Thursday, May 5.
Centre owner Rob Scott said: “By their hundreds customers are asking us to tell them which candidates support us and which do not.
“So we are writing to prospective councillors and will pass their answers to customers.”
He continued: “Our supporters come from throughout the entire Wokingham Borough Council area and they see the local elections as an opportunity to make their views known in their wards.
“They are making it clear to us they will not necessarily vote along traditional party lines but will vote in a way which helps Sheeplands avoid closing down.”
Supporters of the garden centre say closure would result in the loss of 100 jobs.
Two weeks ago, Nigel Timms, the owner of Bell Antiques, a business based in the centre, issued a ‘call to arms’ to customers. He suggested they should write to their councillors to make them aware of how important the business is.
Planning permission for 200 new homes on the outskirts of Hurst have been declined by Wokingham Borough Council.