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Garden centre expansion plans considered harmful to the countryside

A garden centre desperate to expand in order to protect jobs looks set to have its plans shattered.

Broxtowe Borough Council believes the expansion plans at Trowell Garden Centre in Stapleford Road will harm the Green Belt if given the go-ahead.

The plans include extending the coffee lounge, creating a children’s play area, an enlarged retail space and more canopies to provide plant protection.

Planning permission was previously refused in 2019 for a similar development on the grounds it was an inappropriate development within the Green Belt.

Planning officers said the benefits of the proposal are that the applicant proposes a major investment which is designed to “improve the customer experience” and “the long term viability of the business, creating job security for existing staff and creating additional employment”.

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However, planning officers said the size of the extensions are considered to represent “a disproportionate addition to the size of the original building” which would be “harmful to the openness of the Green Belt”.

They said while the extensions have been reduced in size and nature, the proposal would still result in an increase of approximately 98 per cent compared to the original building.

The business argues in its design and access statement that the development is essential to allow the business to continue to grow and to ensure that it can compete with ever-changing retail trends.

They added: “It is noted that garden centres over the years have changed from general plant sales to extensive retail operations selling ranges of gardening and more general household goods.

“The site already benefits from an existing large coffee shop which is proposed to be extended as part of this planning application.

“During 2021, costs have risen dramatically due to supply chain issues resulting from a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and global demand outstripping a disrupted supply.

“In order to remain competitive much of the increase in costs have not been passed on to the customer.

“Therefore, whilst turnover increased during the financial year 2020/21 compared to the previous year, the substantial increase in underlying costs have been absorbed resulting in an expected 30-35 per cent reduction in net profits for the current year.

“Supply and maintenance of stock has been another major challenge during the last two years and continues to be a substantial issue.

“In order to overcome the problem, it has been necessary to pre-order and over order stock which has resulted in the need for considerably more storage capacity.

“As a temporary measure this has resulted in retail space being given over to storage. Excessive stock levels also have a financial penalty for the business, tying up working capital.”

But planning officers said: “The negative impacts are the size of the extensions which are considered to represent a disproportionate addition to the size of the original building, which would be inappropriate development and harmful to the openness of the Green Belt.

“On balance it is considered that the benefits are not outweighed by the harm of the proposal to the openness the Green Belt.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the garden centre for a comment but no one was available at the time.

The council’s planning committee will formally decide on the plans at a later date.

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