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What now for the Garden House?

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Garden House Rawdon Gascoigne Emery Planning Mark Jordan Stockport Council

Following the decision to refuse to grant planning permission, the team at the Garden House are considering their next move in the community farm's long-running planning saga.

In a meeting in September, councillors were presented with arguments both for and against. Despite feelings running high, attendance was much lower than anticipated. The session lasted more than two and a half hours and at times appeared somewhat confusing. Stockport Council's Senior Planning Officer, Mark Jordan, outlined a series of concerns over what was referred to as a “fairly complicated planning application”. Chief among these appeared to be the suitability of Lakes Road for handling traffic to and from the site, safety at the Faywood Drive/Arkwright Road junction and the building of structures on Green Belt land. Although there had previously been a complaint, there was no objection in respect of noise disturbance and it was ruled out as a factor.

Garden House

Speaking in support of the Garden House, Rawdon Gascoigne of Emery Planning in Macclesfield gave a three minute presentation in which he summarised the merits of the proposal, describing the farm as a “highly valued community asset with a large amount of support locally”.

Mr Gascoigne offered rebuttals for the issues raised, deferring where necessary to Andrew Bell, an expert in highway matters and a director of Wilmslow's Focus Transport Planning. It was explained that the Garden House could be considered as an 'Appropriate Development', for which exceptions are made in Green Belt rules.  

Ultimately though, the councillors had to make their decision based on the 'quasi-judicial' legal process by which they were bound. While they were aware of the 'strong feelings on both sides', they were keen to point out that the decision was not based on comments for or against and that they were required to make their decision in accordance with the local plan (a legal document which must be followed unless there are material considerations otherwise, e.g. national plans).

Supporters of the Garden House were naturally disappointed with the outcome. The facility, which was formerly used as a tip, demonstrably enjoys a huge amount of public support; more than 5000 people have signed a physical petition and a further 1200 names have been added to change.org.

Owner Kevin Swindells and the team have pointed to potential procedural failings in the council's handling of the application and are seeking further legal advice. They believe they have satisfied all the objections raised and hope to overturn the decision.

Lancaster Park and Animal Farm, a similar site in Chadderton, prevailed in its own lengthy campaign to remain open and the Garden House hopes to follow suit. Owner Kevin Swindells remains optimistic, reciting the message which is becoming a rallying cry: “Here today, here to stay.”

Meanwhile, the farm is gearing up for a busy winter season. A 'Hallowe'en Spooktacular' with fancy dress and pumpkin carving will be held from October 27 to 31 and bookings are being taken for 'Brunch with Santa' on 22/23 December (info@thegardenhousemarple.com).