Dorset garden centre could lose £3m if planning refused

A garden centre could lose £3m of investment in a rail attraction if East Dorset District Council does not allow him planning permission to run trains at his garden centres and nursery.

Plowmans Garden Nursery & Plant Centre owner Vic Plowman said:
"We're preparing an application but I have to do a lot of research into the trains that are at garden centres. I believe there are 70-odd garden centres and nurseries with trains in the UK. The planners are saying I'm trying to become a tourist attraction but
I'm just a garden centre owner who likes trains."

Plowman bought his eight classic American replica miniature trains to run outdoors from Dobwalls Adventure Park in Cornwall but said he does not want to be a similar style of attraction. "Our concept is a very different thing."

At his centre in West Parley, Dorset, he currently uses a Santa train in polytunnels in a "Disney-esque, magical" Christmas theme to raise money for charity.

Vic Plowman has track laid and hopes to sort out his planning issues in 2009.

East Dorset District Council head of planning and building control Mike Hirsh said officers had met the owner on site and the railway needed planning permission for change of use from a garden centre to mixed use incorporating a tourist attraction.

"An application is now likely to be submitted," Hirsh said.

"The site lies in the greenbelt and is accessed from a busy main road."

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