Ian ""right to be miffed"" says Riverford owner

PUBLISHED: 10:44 01 December 2008 | UPDATED: 11:46 17 June 2010

HE MAY not grow produce in fields nearby, but Riverford Farm Shop owner Ben Watson uses local suppliers to stock much of his Sidmouth shop.

HE MAY not grow produce in fields nearby, but Riverford Farm Shop owner Ben Watson uses local suppliers to stock much of his Sidmouth shop.

"The root vegetables are from a farm in Budleigh Salterton and I get a lot of beef and lamb from Branscombe.

"Chickens are from a farm in Upottery and I have a supplier in Aylesbeare too," said Mr Watson, 51, who operates Riverford with two brothers, from Totnes.

He is backing Ian Barlow, owner of Sidmouth Garden Centre, who last week was told he had two years to stop using part of a new extension for the organic meat, bakery and grocery shop.

East Devon District Council's development control committee agreed to an enforcement notice being issued to cease using the site for the farm shop and remove fittings, such as chiller cabinets.

"I think he is justified at being miffed," said Mr Watson, who spent around £100,000 in fitting out the shop.

"Because farm shops always have planning issues Ian checked with the council to make sure his planning permission was okay."

He said his solicitors were happy to draw up the seven year lease after Mr Barlow received written assurances he was acting within the terms of his planning permission.

He thought it should be passed "given Waitrose on the other side of the road has permission to double the size of the site.

"It feels a bit as if it is one rule for them and another for us mere mortals. I don't want to sue Ian, I just want to get it sorted out."

Mr Watson said he had liked the idea of opening within the garden centre and planned to "sit tight".

"I founded the business 25 years ago, I am in it for the long haul. I like to think we have done a reasonably good job promoting local, unadulterated food. I am not in it for a fast buck.

"Customers have been supportive and the general feeling is that although we have to pay for it egg is on the council's face."

He said his solicitors had suggested the next move would be for Mr Barlow to "whack in an application.

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