To debate a petition.
In accordance with Procedure Rule 188.8.131.52 a maximum period of 30 minutes will be allowed for petitions to be debated.
The process below will be followed at the meeting:
a) the petition organiser(s) will be given five minutes to present the petition (if there is more than one petition organiser then they will share this time);
b) the petition will then be debated by Councillors for a period not exceeding 30 minutes;
c) the petition organiser(s) will have the right of reply of up to a maximum of three minutes;
d) the Mayor will then ask for motions on how the Council wishes to respond to the Petition which may include;
i) taking the action or some of the action the petition requests;
ii) not taking the action the petition requests;
iii) referring the petition to another body for them to consider the matter and take the appropriate action;
e) once a motion has been put forward it will be voted on without discussion or amendment;
f) if the motion falls then the Mayor will ask for a further motion to be put forward;
g) if the Mayor is of the opinion that a decision on how to respond to the petition cannot be reached then he/she can decide, on behalf of the Council, not to take the action that the petition requests.
The Deputy Mayor announced that, in line with Procedural Rule 184.108.40.206, a petition containing more than 1,500 signatures had been received (on 7 October 2016) in relation to the Hare Hatch Sheeplands Nursery. Under the Constitution this had triggered a debate at the Council meeting.
Patrick Heather, the petition organiser, presented the petition the wording of which was:
“We request, in the strongest possible terms, that Wokingham Borough Council does everything it can to ensure that Hare Hatch Sheeplands continues to operate as a financially viable enterprise. This will allow it to remain a highly valued community based asset used by so many different sections of the local population. We urge the Council to acknowledge that, as well as the elderly, infirm and young, many social groups and organisations value it as a home for their activities. Schools and charities benefit from its support and local suppliers and companies benefit from its existence. We ask the Council to ensure this valuable asset remains in business and that the benefits it brings are not lost to us forever”.
Patrick Heather addressed the meeting and set out the background to the petition. He stated that the current petition and an earlier petition demonstrated the support Hare Hatch Sheeplands had built in the local community as well as the wider community who travel to shop in Twyford. The current petition contained 4,825 signatures with 2,611 of the petitioners living, working or studying in the Borough.
Mr Heather gave details of the support provided by Hare Hatch Sheeplands to the local community, local charities and the Twyford Business Forum. The business supported local suppliers and provided employment opportunities for local residents. He felt that the dispute between the business and the Council had gone on too long and was likely to end up in the Supreme Court. He suggested that, in order to resolve the dispute, the Council should lift the enforcement notice which would allow a resolution via an independent planning inquiry.
Members highlighted the Council’s support and encouragement for local businesses across the Borough and recognised the importance of Hare Hatch Sheeplands to the local community. However, they also reiterated the Council’s position that all businesses in the Borough must comply with legal requirements in areas such as environmental health, trading standards, health and safety and planning. The Council’s role was to enforce the relevant legal requirements fairly and equitably to ensure that no one business was given preferential treatment. Failure to enforce the relevant planning legislation would set a dangerous precedent and encourage others to attempt to break the rules.
Following the debate the Deputy Mayor invited Motions as to how the Council wished to respond to the petition.
The following Motion was proposed by John Halsall and seconded by Mark Ashwell.
“We request, in the strongest possible terms, of the management that they do everything they can to ensure that Hare Hatch Sheeplands operates as a financially viable enterprise lawfully while complying with greenbelt planning policies set out in government guidance and the Council’s local plan. The management of Hare Hatch Sheeplands asserts that it is a highly valued community based asset used by so many different sections of the local population, a valued home for the activities of the elderly, infirm, young, many social groups and organisations, support to schools and charities, and of value to local suppliers and companies. However, it is essential that this valuable asset remains in business by operating within the law and that by doing so, that the benefits it brings are not lost without compromising the greenbelt position”.