Business as usual for Hare Hatch Sheeplands despite planning woesBy Jon Nurse
December 04, 2012
Father Christmas arrived to raise cash for charities as storm clouds gather over an illegally-expanded garden centre.
Centre customers braved the rain for Santa’s visit to Hare Hatch Sheeplands in London Road on Saturday.
But the centre is under threat after it was issued with an enforcement notice for expanding into the green belt. A Hare Hatch Sheeplands spokeswoman said: “Despite reported doom and gloom, it’s business as usual for Hare Hatch Sheeplands.
“Christmas was planned a year in advance and we will carry on as usual.
“Santa’s arrival was really well supported and we are pleased with the numbers that came.”
The centre has been given 18 months to rectify a long list of planning breaches that could force its garden centre, shops and cafe to close.
Owner Rob Scott said: “We met planning officers at Wokingham Borough Council on November 20, to begin a dialogue that will hopefully result in a compromise being reached.
“The current position is, however, very serious and we are extremely concerned about the future viability of the business.
“We will continue to do everything we can to resolve the situation and are grateful for the unwavering support of our staff and customers.”
A large crowd greeted Santa as he arrived by sledge, pulled by a posse of human reindeer. He settled into his grotto and spent the day handing out gifts to a long queue of children.
The visit of Father Christmas, who bore a striking resemblance to the Rotary Club of Reading Maiden Erlegh president Hugh O’Hare, was arranged by the club to raise money for a number of charities.
“We donate the proceeds from the grotto and collections to a number of local charities and also to national organisations such as The Stroke Association,” Rotary Club member Mike Phillips said.
Dave Tindall, also from the Rotary Club, added: “This is the fifth year we have arranged for Father Christmas to visit Sheeplands and we are grateful to them for their continued support.
“We are also grateful to the ladies from our Inner Wheel Club who are on duty as elves.”
Father Christmas will be in his grotto from 10am until 4pm every Saturday and Sunday until December 23, and also on Thursday, December 20, Friday, December 21, and on Christmas Eve.
Visitors will also find a living nativity, with a number of pet animals to see.
There is a chance to have breakfast with Santa on December 8, 9, 15 and 16, from 9am until 10am and lunch from noon to 2pm on Christmas Eve. Booking is required, with details at www.harehatchsheeplands.co.uk.