A GARDEN centre has been threatened with legal action after a council investigation found it to be flouting government guidance and opening up - despite being classed as a non-essential business.

Barnsley Council received a tip-off about the business - the identity of which has not been revealed due to ‘legal reasons’ - ignoring social distancing measures and opting to open despite being told not to.

Enforcement officers from the local authority’s regulatory services team visited the premises and issued two separate warnings, but the garden centre remained open and now a legal notice has been served to prevent it from opening its doors, with prosecution looming if the final warning is ignored.

Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said: “While the vast majority of businesses in the town are complying with the regulations, it is disappointing that a small number are choosing to ignore the threat of coronavirus.

“We appreciate this is a difficult time for businesses, but the regulations were brought in to respond to the serious and imminent threat that coronavirus poses to public health.

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“We’re doing what we can to support business in our borough and In the first instance, advice and support will be offered to help businesses comply with the regulations.

“However, we will not hesitate to take action against those who break the law.”

While Sir Steve told the Chronicle he appreciates the difficulties faced by businesses, he stressed the importance of following ‘all-important’ guidelines in place to protect people from the spread of coronavirus.

Barnsley Council has paid out more than £20m to just under 2,000 businesses across the borough in business grants ahead of receiving money from central government which arrived on April 2.

Working with the council’s finance team, a process was quickly established to drive grant enquiries to an online form, resulting in faster payouts to support Barnsley’s economy and residents who found themselves needing support.

Setting up a new online chat system on the Enterprising Barnsley website allowed the team to deliver a contact centre-style function to manage enquiries and provide clear information to over 540 businesses in the first two weeks of the crisis, directing them to the available financial support and other business support.

“We want Barnsley businesses to thrive and although many of them have been placed into a very difficult position, by acting quickly we have been able to help businesses survive, but they cannot ignore guidelines and remain open when they’re not essential,” Sir Steve added.

“The decision to get money out to businesses before the money from central government arrived was a critical one to protect as many Barnsley businesses and workers as possible.

“I’m delighted that our services reacted quickly and worked together in testing times in order to provide the critical support people needed.”

Anybody wanting to report a business for not adhering to the new regulations can do so by emailing regulatoryservices@barnsley.gov.uk.