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Garden centre staff fear losing their jobs at Christmas

Staff at a Woodmansey garden centre fear they will lose their jobs over the festive season. Beverley Garden Centre – part of the Garden Centre Group – will close in the next two months after the current operator announced its plans to move out.

Workers are worried they will be given a month's notice in December, with the lease on the Woodmansey premises due to expire at the beginning of January. Another company has been lined up to take over and save all 60 jobs, but faces a race against time to secure planning approval.

One staff member who contacted the Mail said: "We're all really worried about the threat of losing our jobs. I can't believe they're going to do that to us at Christmas.

"If it's not sorted out, we'll all be out of a job."

The Garden Centre Group's lease on the huge site in Hull Road expires on January 15. The chain is up for sale and will not be renewing its deal.

A new, as yet unnamed, company is lined up to move into the site as soon as possible. However, it will only happen if East Riding Council approves a detailed planning application about what can be sold at the site.

The company wants to sell arts and crafts, along with more traditional garden centre stock.

The application is due to be discussed by the council's planning committee on December 15 – the date redundancy notices could be handed out if the deal falls through.

Beatrice Stanford, spokesman for Keygrowing, which owns the site, said: "We have a new tenant lined up who want to take all the staff on. It's another garden centre group, which has been operating a number of years.

"The new company wants written planning permission to be able to sell all its products. Luckily, the deal has not yet fallen through.

"We explained to the council these people could be losing their jobs at Christmas."

Planning guidelines require stores such as garden centres to have detailed lists of what they can sell.

Councils have to consider whether an out-of-town development is likely to have a detrimental impact on main commercial centres, in this case Beverley. Keygrowing says it first submitted its application in July. But the company was asked to amend it, which took some time.

The council's head of planning and development management, Pete Ashcroft, said the authority did not receive a valid planning application until October 20 and that was when the legally required public consultation began. The consultation period is now over.

Mr Ashcroft said: "The application is still up for consideration.

"If it needs to be reported to a planning committee meeting that would be on December 15."

But he added that workers might not have to wait until that date because council officers have delegated powers, meaning they may be able to deal with it before then.

Mr Ashcroft said: "It will depend on how many representations we get and the nature of those representations."

Beverley Garden Centre already sells many of the items in question. But, strictly, it is doing so without the correct planning consent. Goods like clothing, for example, are specifically excluded from the present list of what can be sold.

Mr Ashcroft said no complaints had been received about goods being sold in the store.

He added: "It may be that the new company likes everything to be crossed and dotted.

"Items are listed on planning documents for the avoidance of doubt."

Nobody from The Garden Centre Group was available to comment about items currently being sold on the premises.

Source : Hull Daily Mail

15 November 2011
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