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Council cleared of 'unprofessional conduct' over Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre

Wokingham Borough Council has been cleared of maladministration or unprofessional conduct over  its handling of the Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre planning dispute, according to a report on Berkshire Live.


An independent investigation into the authority was launched following complaints from members of the public, who had raised concerns about the handling of the issues.


Council officers or councillors had been accused of inducing Mr Scott to act against his own interests by withdrawing an appeal against an enforcement notice.


But a report by legal expert Richard Lingard concluded "the council did not, either through its elected members or its officers, induce Mr Scott (either by intentional design or default) to act to his detriment by withdrawing his appeal against an enforcement notice”.


He also said suggestions of unprofessional conduct on the part of Wokingham Borough Council officers were unfounded.


Councillor Wayne Smith: “There have been legal ups and downs during this long-running dispute over Hare Hatch Sheeplands’ attempt at unauthorised development.

"But our overall objective has always been to protect the green belt, which we have now secured.


“We commissioned an independent investigation because we know some residents feel we have been heavy-handed at times, but I’m delighted staff and councillors have been cleared of the serious allegations.


“There were some training needs identified and we’re already acting on them, but it’s clear from the report that the council acted in good faith to resolve these difficult issues in the best interests of the whole borough.”


The council commissioned the investigation following a long-running set of legal cases concerning illegal development on green belt land at Hare hatch Sheeplands.


According to a release issued by the council, it has sought to protect the area against unauthorised development and an injunction remains in place to prevent any commercial development on the site’s green belt.


Richard Lingard, who undertook the inquiry, has carried out some 40 investigations into alleged misconduct across the country.


In 2017, Robert Scott (left), the owner of Hare Hatch Sheeplands, avoided jail after he agreed to shut down a number of retailers operating on the garden centre site.


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