Funding troubles ensnare Hare Hatch Sheeplands expansion plans

Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre in Berkshire is looking for new funding after being "let down" by backer AMC in its expansion plans.

Co-owner Rob Scott said: “We just had a problem with AMC [a financial services provider} which has been a bit awkward. We can’t get as much as we were hoping for, for the current round of developments.

“We’ve been rather let down by AMC so we need to get the masterplan together to be able to show what we’re doing and get new funding.

Scott added: “Funding is one of the problems we have to grapple with. It’s a circular argument. We need a planning consent to attract concessions but they won’t come on board until we get a planning consent. But we’ll only be able to borrow the money once we have cast iron concessions on board.”

Scott has appointed Pleydell Smithyman to draw up a masterplan for the whole site, which has been dogged by planning problems for years.

Pleydell will take care of planning for the garden centre side of the business. It has permission from Wokingham Borough Council for a coffee shop and farm shop but can only sell homegrown plants in its garden centre. A new butcher is opening in November.

Scott said the time was now right for expansion with the number of shop customers having increased by 25 per cent on last year.

Scott and co-owner Andrew Cardy, who runs the farm shop, joined forces last year. The council’s planners turned down both requests despite overwhelming support from the businessmen’s customers with a petition signed by 2,500 people.

But earlier this year, a government inspector allowed both plans on appeal, despite the council’s insistence the coffee shop and farm shop should not be allowed because the site is inside the green belt.

Scott bought the nursery site of Hare Hatch Sheeplands in 1992 and then began developing it as a garden centre.

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