A DEVELOPER has been given permission to keep using many former agricultural buildings in the green belt as shops.

Bracknell Forest Council's planning committee decided on Thursday that the Moss End Farm and Garden Centre in Warfield is allowed to keep alterations that enable it to run as a craft village.

But because the development is in the green belt, the committee's decision will now go to the Secretary of State for final approval.

Mike Edmund, managing director of Schyde Investment Ltd, which owns the site in Maidenhead Road, said afterwards: "Obviously we are very pleased with the result. We have spent a lot of months working closely with the planning officer and we are very pleased to receive the support of the committee." The company was given retrospective permission for some of the farm buildings to be altered and used as shops. However, some shops have only been granted temporary permission to operate for three years.

The site has been the focus of a long-running discussion over its use, with Schyde Investments submitting several other retrospective planning applications that were turned down. Schyde Investments had lodged an appeal against that decision but Mr Edmund said that the company would now be considering whether to continue pursuing it.

The site already had planning permission for a garden centre, now called Moss End Pet and Garden Centre.

Some councillors opposed the latest proposals, including Cllr Clifton Thompson of Warfield Harvest Ride ward.

He said: "It is an inappropriate development. It is not a defined employment area.

"We have still got the same situation as we had before when we first refused it." Cllr Dale Birch, deputy leader of the council, agreed that the development did not fit the criteria allowing development in the green belt - "special circumstances".

He said: "The best level of control in the green belt is to say no unless you can provide those very, very special circumstances. I can't see that the case for very special circumstances has been made." However Cllr Shelagh Pile, for Harmans Water ward, said: "I believe it is important to retain these farm buildings to have small businesses, to support them when we are in crucial financial times." Warfield Parish Council is against the development.