Owners of garden centres urge government to let them re-open saying: “We’re ready’

PUBLISHED: 11:54 02 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:57 03 May 2020

Peter Purdy, who runs Woodgate Nursery, Aylsham. Pic: Archant library/Woodgate nursery

Peter Purdy, who runs Woodgate Nursery, Aylsham. Pic: Archant library/Woodgate nursery

Bosses from garden centres in Norfolk are urging Boris Johnson to let them re-open, saying they’ve put new measures in place.

The re-opening of garden centres and nurseries following the lockdown is being kept under review by the government.

The general rule is you can order plants to be delivered, with some venues offering a contactless collection service but otherwise garden centres remain closed.

It comes as the HTA, Horticultural Trade Association, the industry body for garden centres, is lobbying for re-opening, with renewed pressure to do after retailers such as home and garden store Homebase announced it was to begin re-opening stores. This prompted former environment secretary Theresa Villiers to say it was unfair that competitors were open when garden centres were not.

Mousehold Garden Centre. Pic: ArchantMousehold Garden Centre. Pic: Archant

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Some like Mousehold Garden Centre in Norwich, have remained open throughout the coronavirus outbreak because it sells ‘essential’ items in its shop.

Others are delivering items. Keith Clouting, from Taverham Garden Centre, near Norwich, is currently running on about 10 staff instead of 60 and selling off existing stock including bedding and tomato plants. Getting in new stock is trick because of restrictions with suppliers.

Taverham garden centre. Pic: ArchantTaverham garden centre. Pic: Archant

“We are busy but we’ve only got two vans so we are restricted but doing the best we can,” he said. He added they were implementing social distancing measures such as putting in cashier screens. “If the government lets us open in the next few weeks, we will be ready.”

Similarly, at Woodgate Nursery, Aylsham, run by Peter Purdy, a spokesman said they were inundated with phone and website orders. “It’s keeping us going but of course we want to be able to re-open,” he said.

Timothy Gee, who runs Mousehold Garden Centre, said he was really busy but did not have enough staff to cope. “There are just three of us on the cash tills, but we’ve had good takings, we’ve put in markings for social distancing and customers have been very good.”

None of the garden centres this newspaper spoke to said they had to throw any plants away. But it’s estimated £687m worth of plants will be lost by the end of June nationwide and £1.2billion by the end of December if garden centres are not allowed to re-open.

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