The garden centre plans to roll out its development programme over the next 5-10 years.
Bents, which has held the Garden Centre Association’s award for Best Destination Garden Centre in the UK for the past three years, aims to create a larger contemporary retail space "whilst retaining the intimate and friendly environment and same high levels of service that Bents has established a reputation for". It aims to add to its existing workforce of 320 colleagues with job opportunities for a further 121 full and part time positions in all areas of the business.
MD Matthew Bent said:
"We’ve come a long way since the Bents’ business was established by my grandparents nearly 75 years ago and the go-ahead for our latest plans allows us to embark on yet another exciting stage in our journey.
"We never forget our roots as plant people, but we’ve worked hard to create a destination that is no longer just focussed on the garden but also encompasses home and lifestyle. Our new plans aim to build on this and create the ultimate one stop shop, providing visitors with a quality alternative to large scale shopping centres, without losing any of the choice, quality or levels of service."
Work will commence on Phase 1 in 2012 with the construction of a roundabout on the A574 and plans include building a two-storey high glazed atrium with escalators leading up to 3,800m² of retail, leisure and educational space. Still central to the garden centre however are plants and Bents own plant nursery will be expanding production by 27 per cent over the next two years. The importance of plants and nature is also underlined in the development of 7ha of wildlife gardens on the site which are linked to Educational Classrooms in the garden centre.
Bent added: "The garden centre has moved on into becoming more than a retail outlet. From the very outset we talked to the community, officers at Warrington Council, our customers and our work colleagues and what became clear was the role we play as a community facility and not just a garden centre". Bents is working with the local community on a 1,000m² children’s play area for Glazebury Village and nearly 4,000m² of allotments.
A farm shop, showcasing produce sourced from Cheshire and Lancashire, and opportunities for like-minded retailers to join the centre are also included in the wider plans.
Bent added: "If anyone has any ideas as to who they would like to see here then we’d be very happy to hear from them! We’ve worked hard to ensure our plans are staged over the next 5-10 years so we can carefully manage the whole development process. With so much negativity around at the moment we are very happy to be able to make this announcement which is great news for all our colleagues and the long term future of Bents."