New crop of garden centres is a good omen after two tough years

A swathe of new garden centre developments is seen as a promising sign for the industry.

Garden centre developments worth more than £50m are planned across the UK this year, in spite of an industry-wide downturn. Some proposals are seeking planning permission but the fact that applications have been lodged is seen as a vote of confidence for the industry after two tough years. Several multi-million-pound developments are due for completion ahead of the vital selling season. Among the openings is a new garden centre in Poundbury, Dorset, which was opened by Prince Charles last Friday. Managing director Mike Burkes of Castle Brimsmore, which operates Poundbury Gardens and two other centres, said more than £1m was spent redeveloping several farm buildings into a retail outlet and café. The facility boasts several environmentally-sustainable features, including water recycling and heating that runs on surplus wooden pallets, which impressed the prince during his visit. Another new development is the £2.5m Stratford Garden Centre, opening on 8 April. General manager Jo Phillpott is unconcerned about a predicted downturn in retail spending and is confident of the centre’s potential. About 30 people have been employed, a £500,000 extension is scheduled and there are tentative plans for 250-seat restaurant. Klondyke, which this week appointed former Wyevale CEO Bob Hewitt as chief executive, opens a £6m garden centre in Carlisle next month. The company also has permission for developments in Stockton and Knutsford, and expects permission soon for another project in Leeds. A Garden Centre Association representative said it was encouraging to see that companies were investing money, when newspapers were “full of doom and gloom”. She said that while trading in the past two years had been tougher, garden centres had enjoyed 10 years of strong growth. Other developments * Barton Grange Garden Centre in Preston, Lancashire, has permission for a garden centre as part of a £15m development. * Blooms of Bressingham has lodged plans for a £2.2m garden centre in Solihull. * Dobbies has announced plans for a £6.3m garden centre in Milton Keynes. * Focus has unveiled plans for a £2.5m DIY superstore in Alton. * Garden Park Investments has revealed plans for a £8m garden centre in Peterborough. * Liberty Mercian has outlined plans for a £5.5m retail warehouse and garden centre in Telford.

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