The garden centre is located within the Surrey Green Belt and adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Squire's considered the existing shop and canopy area at 1,173m² to be half the size needed for the customer market available. Given the garden centre’s location any new development would need to be supported by very special circumstances, said Scott's.
With no buildings to demolish to compensate for the increase, they prepared a planning case based upon the future financial needs of the business.
They explained the economics of running a garden centre at a pre-application meeting with the CEOr of Woking Council and a senior planning officer.
Community consultations were undertaken at two evening events at the garden centre. The economic benefits of the proposed development, together with proposals to enhance the site’s ecological value as part of a wider wildlife corridor in the district, were considered by the council to outweigh any harm to the Green Belt. Planning consent was granted in April 2012 after a 14 week determination by Woking Council.
Planner Chris Primett said:
"The significance of what we have achieved in this particular case is not simply that we have gained an expansion in the covered area in a Green Belt location but that this has been achieved without being able to offer any like-for-like demolition of older buildings to replicate the same footprint of size for the new building.
"We had to put forward a business case to the Local Planning Authority and the Chief Executive to gain the necessary very special circumstances to overturn the presumption against building in the Green Belt.
"The engagement with the Local Planning Authority and local residents through pre-application meetings and consultations respectively also were of significant benefit in helping to gain planning approval.
"This course of action is something that will become more likely since the publication of the Government’s NPPF, which has given a stronger "green light" to business and the need to maintain and create new jobs in the private sector."