Supermarket proposal charge attests to trend for garden centre tie-ups

Sainsbury's and Waitrose join list of supermarkets eyeing sites for redevelopment opportunities.

Supermarkets are stepping up their pursuit of garden centres for sites to expand.

Sainsbury's has proposed a 3,000sq m store and an employment complex on the site of Malmesbury Garden Centre in Wiltshire, which would bring 200 jobs to town.

Meanwhile, a 1,500sq m Waitrose store is planned in the Wootton area of Northampton next to Garden Centre Group's Northampton Garden Centre. A second development by the retailer alongside Garden & Leisure's Percy Thrower centre in Shrewsbury would see the garden centre rebuilt.

Morrisons is believed to have made a preliminary bid for Garden Centre Group, which could lead to Britain's two biggest garden centre companies being owned by supermarkets, with Tesco owning Dobbies.

Elsewhere, Hurrans in Churchdown town centre, Gloucestershire, became a Tesco Metro in 2009. Country Gardens sold its Cirencester site to a supermarket and the former Challis Garden Centre in York was also redeveloped for a supermarket. Tesco's building at Notcutts in Solihull, resulted in a centre revamp.

Planner Malcolm Scott said: "Where garden centres have an open A1 retail use, or include product items defined as 'food', there is always a possibility that a supermarket could develop on part or on the whole site. This may include the redevelopment of the existing garden centre or a cash deal."

But he added: "Such developments would be subject to a sequential test, which means that the developer or supermarket operator would need to prove that there were no alternative sites within the town centre or edge of town centre and that the development was sustainable."

In open countryside or in the green belt it would be very unlikely that development would be allowed, said Scott, without "exceptional circumstances" to overcome the presumption against it.

"It is preferable to develop on brownfield sites, hence the value in obtaining the correct planning approval for garden centre as opposed to nursery or agricultural use on open land.

"We look at the development potential of garden centre sites when we are carrying out appraisals and we have a number under active consideration for retail and housing."

Profit guide Garden centre workshop

Malcolm Scott Consultants is to hold its first Planning for Profit workshop later this month.

Scott said: "The day should prove to be an interesting and informative guide for nursery and garden centre owners on how to maximise the potential of their sites through the development process.

"At a time when profits are being squeezed and building long-term asset value more important than ever, the workshop will be very pertinent."

The event will take place on 24 November at Grove House, 1 Loves Lane, Worcester WR1 3BU. To book, email inmail@malcolmscottcons.co.uk.


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