Little Dodd Garden Centre builds eco-pods to lure tourist market

Centre revamp includes 18-20 eco-pods giving sustainably-focused camping accommodation.

Diversification into providing eco-pods represents the way forward for a Cumbrian garden centre, according to its new owner.

Andrew Lewington and his wife took over Little Dodd Garden Centre in Keswick, Cumbria, three weeks ago having bought the business from David Horsburgh. Lewington is a former Yell group manager, while his wife worked for Cumbria Life magazine.

Planners Taylor & Hardy are working on a rebuild scheme for the centre. Lewington said he hoped to start work in October or November. The revamp will include a new centre building with a cafe and farm shop.

Also in the plans are 18-20 wooden eco-pods, which could be built at the same time or next summer in an adjoining field.

Lewington said: "This will bring access to a completely different market, the tourist market, that will give us income streams we would not get otherwise."

Gary Wilburn, owner of garden centre design company HPW, is also involved in eight holiday parks in the UK such as at Sandy Balls in the New Forest.

He said the provision of yurts and pods for glamping - camping in sustainably-focused accommodation - were important parts of his business and had potential planning gain. "It's something that goes with all the staycation issues that are coming to the fore and it just makes sense," he added.

EXPERT VIEWS

- Alistair Lorimer, retail consultant

"This is not a development that would be unexpected, but I've not seen it at any other garden centres yet. Leisure parks, like garden centres, evolved from farmland. Landal GreenParks in Holland have eco-friendly buildings on them with parkland landscaped around them in a wild way."

- Paul Pleydell, director, Pleydell Smithyman

"We've looked at this to answer the question 'What can we do with adjoining land?' At Seiont Nurseries in Snowdonia there is a campsite and we did some work at the coffee shop. It 'sweats the assets' by using the catering facilities for a captive audience. Your food hall can become a convenience shop and anything that grows footfall is a good thing."

- Neville Stein, retail consultant

"Look at the success of the garden centre franchise Yeomans. Eco-pods and yurts are a fantastic idea because a lot of garden centres have space that isn't used. Campers will use your coffee shop for breakfast. It's the same business model as adding concessions."


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