Sites and Policies Plan Consultation Draft

Comment ID 4601633//1
Document Section Sites and Policies Plan Consultation Draft Retailing, Town, District and Local Centres DM64-69 [View all comments on this section]
Respondent Deleted User [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 18 Apr 2013

As the owners of Hutton Garden Centre, we are writing with regards to N. Somerset’s proposal Re garden centre extensions. From what we understand, extensions will only be allowed if 50% of the floor-space is for produce grown on the land, and the remaining 50% for selling ancillary items (eg furniture, seeds, wellies, etc) that are made within 30 miles. I imagine you hope by this to boost local businesses, but we cannot see that it can be of benefit to garden centres. If the proposals are detrimental to garden centres, then how can their suppliers and other linked businesses benefit in the long run?

We oppose the proposal for the reasons outlined below:

1.     The proposal is unreasonably restrictive. Although we are happy to buy locally when the opportunity arises (most of our plants are from local nurseries) our ancillary stock comes mainly from British wholesalers and is sourced from many places at home and abroad. Brand leaders such as Sutton seeds and Levington’s unfortunately don’t have production plants within 30 miles of us, or any other garden centre in our area.

2.     Surely the proposal goes against government policy of free trade. Should there happen to be a local manufacturer of, for example, garden spades, the proposed restrictions would give that supplier a significant trading advantage - ie they know we can’t buy elsewhere so they can put their prices up. Isn’t this kind of practise bordering on illegal? It will push up prices in garden centres making it even more difficult than it is already to compete with other companies selling similar products but who do not come under the heading of garden centre, including on-line companies.

3.     Another point, although some nurseries sell garden centre products, and vice-versa, they are nonetheless different businesses. It doesn’t follow because you sell plants that you have the necessary skills and equipment to also grow them. If a furniture store wanted to extend their business would it follow that they should devote half their new floor space to manufacturing tables and chairs? A further consideration is that if garden centres in N Somerset start producing plants it could impact adversely on nurseries in the region. We are not saying that garden centres shouldn't produce plants if they wish, just that they shouldn't be obliged to if they want to develop their site.

4.     The proposal is unfair in its application specifically to Garden Centres. Will N. Somerset place the same restrictions on supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s if they want to extend their premises? What about DIY stores such as B&Q or Homebase that have large proportions of floor-space dedicated to gardening? Why should they be exempted?

5.     Also, since the proposal is a local initiative, and not country-wide, it gives garden centres outside the N. Somerset region a competitive edge. Clearly this also decreases the market value of our garden centre compared to those in other parts of the country. All things being equal, why should any interested party choose to purchase or run a garden centre in N. Somerset over one situated in an area where such restrictions don’t exist?

6.     A relatively minor point maybe, but how does a 30 mile radius apply when your business is situated close to the coast? A significant portion of our designated area would lie in the Severn estuary.

We are not planning to extend our business at this juncture; indeed, we are struggling in the midst of the current recession. The garden centre’s turnover has fallen whilst overheads, including business rates have gone up. We are not the only ones to be suffering, a fact borne out by the number of garden centres up for sale or closed down in the region.

The council’s proposals do nothing to help. Indeed, they add an extra unlooked-for burden at a difficult time. If the proposal is intended to discourage garden centres from extending, then I think it achieves its aim.