A POPULAR farm and coffee shop has been ‘brought to its knees’ and is on the verge of closing following a long-running planning dispute with councillors.

Hare Hatch Sheeplands Nursery put forward a fresh bid to sell Christmas items during the festive season to help the struggling business during a rough patch.

Owner Rob Scott told the Chronicle that Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) refused to consider the application, which could have saved the business.

The shop has had to make 30 employees redundant during this process and Mr Scott feels the decision was ‘personal’ and ‘vindictive.’

He said: “A perfectly lawful business that has been operating successfully for the last 25 years has been brought to its knees and is on the verge of closure.

“The council has been totally vindictive towards us and it almost seems as if there has been some sort of campaign to close me down.”

Mr Scott submitted the application to the council on September 26 to temporarily use an area of retail space to sell Christmas items and help ‘sustain the business during the off-season’.

The owner claims the bid was rejected before it had even been considered and the council later issued a letter of apology, but has failed to deal with the application in a ‘timely manner’.

He now faces the prospect of ‘personal bankruptcy’ unless he is able to sell the Twyford land to developers.

He added: “I know people will think I am selling to developers to make a lot of money, but I have rejected previous offers.

“The way the council has behaved towards me could be enough to finish the business off.

“The loss of income from Christmas sales will put the business on the brink of collapse.

Simon Weeks, WBC’s executive member for planning and enforcement, explained that the landowner was given a two-year suspended sentence for selling retail goods with authorisation.

He added: “In August 2013, the council served a planning enforcement notice to stop, amongst other things, retail sales on the site.

“The landowner did not have planning permission for sales and being in the green belt, retail sales are not acceptable.

“They failed to comply with the notice and WBC applied to the High Court for a court order.

“The landowner’s solicitors have queried this decision, and so the council is seeking further legal advice.

“Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence, and the land owner and other retailers have been previously charged as such.

“All the defendants have denied the charges and trial has been set for March 2018.

“To date, the landowner has lost every legal challenge and appeal and continues to owe thousands in court costs, which the council is pursuing.”