Statement on St Peter's Garden Centre
When the lockdown was announced on 23 March, the Government asked all retail stores to close, with certain exceptions.
Garden centres were among the stores that were told they must close. This is to help contain the spread of the virus. Wychavon District Council was asked by the Government to help enforce these Coronavirus Regulations through its Environmental Health and Licensing team, managed within the Worcestershire Regulatory Services partnership.
Towards the end of April we became aware St Peter's Garden Centre was continuing to open, contrary to the law. On 28 April a conversation was had with St Peter's Garden Centre informing them they must close due to the regulations. This instruction was ignored and the centre continued to open, leaving us with no option but to issue a prohibition notice on 7 May, informing them they must close or legal action would follow.
We regret we had to do this. The majority of retailers – and other garden centres – have voluntarily complied with the law.
We have some sympathy with the argument put forward by St Peter's Garden Centre that they should be allowed to trade as they provide a food hall, butchery and pet department in addition to plants and other garden related products.
However, the law does not allow us to look at the type of products sold by a business, only the type of business that it is.
There are other garden centres in our district that also offer food and pet products and they are closed and have been throughout this period. It is only fair to them that the rules are applied consistently. Garden centres are still allowed to trade by making deliveries and this is an option still open to St Peter's Garden Centre and one many garden centres and plant nurseries have taken up.
The Horticultural Trades Association has been lobbying the Government for some time to allow garden centres to open, as their interpretation of the law is similar to ours.
The measures put in place by the Government are aimed at slowing the spread of the virus to help save lives and this must be the first priority of all of us.
We do appreciate these measures are having a significant impact on businesses though.
That is why we have paid out more than £24.5million in support payments to more than 2,000 eligible businesses. Our Economic Development Team continues to work with all businesses to make sure they are aware of the support and funding available from the Government to help them through this challenging period.