A WILDLIFE park owner is asking for donations to help her legal battle against monks she claims are trying to drive her out of business.
Melanie Meigh, who runs the Prinknash Bird and Deer Park in Cranham, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a tribunal with her landlords, who are a brotherhood of monks. She is hoping to raise £75,000 to take the Prinknash Abbey Trustees to court where she will allege they are trying to force her out.
Mrs Meigh has protected tenancy status under the 1977 Rent Act but has clashed with the monks on several occasions after taking over the park, which is on land first leased from the monastery in 1978.
She now claims that, through banning her from serving hot food, the monks are preventing her from offering visitors a fully-serviced cafe, and are forcing many of the 40,000 visitors a year to use Prinknash Abbey’s tea shop instead.
This, she said, is threatening the survival of her business.
“Early on in my tenancy the landlords re-opened their old tea room, capitalising upon the custom from our visitors,” she said. “However, they have now prevented me from opening my own fully-serviced cafe so that I am unable to compete and generate the additional revenue which is critical to the survival of the park.
She added: “The Abbey’s actions are having the effect of denying important income to the park that is critical to our future survival. I’ve been left with no other choice than to seek justice through the Competition Appeal Tribunal.”
As well as removing the restrictions on the cafe, she is also seeking damages and costs.
A spokesman for the monastery’s trustees declined to comment.
The tribunal takes place on Monday July 15 in London.
The bird and deer park was established in 1973 by Philip Meigh, Melanie’s father.
Starting from a collection of waterfowl, the park has grown to house other animals, including reindeer, miniature Mediterranean donkeys, pygmy goats and a wide variety of bird and fish species. Melanie has been the sole manager since her father died in 2008.