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Garden Centre Group speaks out on selling centres

Garden Centre Group MD Nicholas Marshall says his Mill Hill garden centre may be sold to become a new Jewish free school.

The Wyevale Garden Centre in north London needs planning permission for change of use and alterations from Barnet Council. Marshall said: "There is a possibility that if it gets planning consent they might make it into a school."

He added that Church Lawford, another Garden Centre Group centre that shut recently, closed because it was close to Garden Centre Group's Rugby site, and that 75 per cent of customers are now using the bigger site, which is 10km away.

Marshall said the move turned a loss into a profit of a "couple of hundred thousand".

He added that if "someone like Tesco comes along and says, 'would you like millions for your centre?', the answer is 'yes. I'd like to take that money and invest in others'".

But locals say the Mill Hill garden centre, which used to be a public swimming pool, is a "fantastic local amenity used by all the community" and a school would "only benefit a part of that community".

It is scheduled to be one of the first free schools to open in September under the Government's Partnership for Schools programme.

As a free school it could set its own pay and conditions for staff, change the lengths of its terms and school days and have freedom from following the National Curriculum.

Ex Hendon MP Andrew Dismore said: "It is a scandalous disgrace the way the council is dealing with this.

"There has been a complete lack of consultation with the local community.

"To be honest I don’t know if this is a good idea or not but that is exactly why we need to have a proper consultation before the planning meeting to identify potential problems and to see if these problems can be resolved."

Etz Chaim school has said it will hold a public meeting in the Mill Hill area.

Source : Matthew Appleby - Horticulture Week

21 March 2011
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