A bizarre planning wrangle has left a Teesside garden centre removing parts of its mini golf course.
Cherry Hill garden centre, just outside Middlesbrough, was already reeling at a loss of trade as a quirk of the lockdown tier system means it can’t open its cafe for the busy Christmas period.
Now the family-run centre has been told to remove small-scale family attractions it launched to boost business after the first lockdown, unless council officials rubber stamp the changes.
Hambleton District Council has issued an enforcement notice over a nine-hole miniature golf course featuring landmarks such as Captain Cook’s Monument, Saltburn pier and the Riverside Stadium as well as silhouettes fashioned by a local steel firm.
It also relates to four pieces of children’s play equipment on artificial turf.
Peter Wilkinson has run the centre – which employs 40 staff – for the past 11 years, and said he accepted planning rules were necessary, but had been dismayed by bureaucracy.
As the centre straddles both Hambleton in North Yorkshire and Middlesbrough local authority areas, red tape means he has had to also close the centre’s cafe, despite it being sited entirely in the Tier 2 North Yorkshire part of the centre, because the frontage of his business was in Middlesbrough.
He said: “The only thing that required planning permission was that we used concrete tubes as vertical planters and some were touching just over the two-metre limit.
“It’s very petty, but if it needs planning permission, it needs planning permission. It’s almost doubtful whether it requires planning permission.
“It was part of the garden centre and the crazy golf course goes around the sewage treatment plant which has been in for around 20 years.”
As a result, Mr Wilkinson has lodged a planning application for the mini golf course and play area.
He said they have already proved popular, tempting customers away from online shopping and supermarkets.
Mr Wilkinson said the council’s decision to enforce planning rules over the changes had proved particularly frustrating after finding the centre in a no man’s land-type situation between tier 3 and tier 2 restriction areas.
He said: “We went all the way to Richmond MP Rishi Sunak’s office, but they wouldn’t give use any clarity and left it to the two local authorities to decide.
“You could say it’s a bit of a frustration that we have to adhere to tier 3.
“The reason people go to a garden centre at this time of year is so they can have a bit of relaxation, a cup of coffee and have a wander round.
“If the cafe is shut our trade dwindles. We’ve put together all the Christmas paraphenalia, paid out all the costs and got the stock there but we’re not getting a return.”
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