North-west England retailers 'coping better with planners than the South'

The North West has become England's garden centre capital thanks to favourable planning decisions, according to garden writer Peter Seabrook.

Centres in the North West, including Barton Grange, Grosvenor, Hayes and Bents, hosted 220-plus International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) Congress delegates last week from 27 countries around the world.

Seabrook, a delegate at the conference, said: "It looks as though the North West has been able to cope with planners better. There is no doubt that in the south-east quarter of the country, garden centres are being held back unnecessarily by planning. Our best garden centres are in the areas where planners have been open-minded and sensible.

"The North West did a very good job hosting the conference and there is little doubt we now have some of the finest garden centres in the world. On my visit to Barton Grange I found the centre jaw-dropping. You wonder where they can go from here."

The Garden Retail top-100 garden centres research, unveiled last month, found that the top five centres in the North West had higher turnover on average, at £10.8m than any other area of the country.

Hungarian delegate Klara Biza said: "The IGCA congress was a great success, it was far beyond my expectations. We have visited 15 top garden centres and I was with Eve Tigwell the whole week, so you can imagine, I have learnt a lot."

Meanwhile, the introduction of a programme for younger delegates revitalised the IGCA Congress, its organisers said.

Bents managing director Matthew Bent said: "It is important to share ideas and thoughts with others to keep the garden centre industry strong.

"Competition from large retailers is always a threat, which is why the GCA and our international links are so important to our industry."

Karl Stensson of Sheridan Nurseries in Georgetown, Ontario, said: "The last time I was in the UK was in 1997 but this is the first time we have been to Bents and there is nothing else like it — it is just beautiful."


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