I understand the pressures garden centres have faced during their time of restricted trading. In particular, many plants have a very short season and specialist growers have faced difficult choices.
I know everyone in the horticulture sector recognises why the Government has needed to introduce social distancing, including restrictions on shopping. While some centres in our area have been able to serve the community by trading online, garden centres have wanted clarity about what re-opening might look like and when it will happen.
Therefore, I was pleased when the Prime Minister published his UK COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, and when relevant social distancing guidance for the next phase of the UK’s recovery was published. From Wednesday 13 May, garden centres can now remain open, with the Government encouraging the introduction of social distancing measures installed. These may include 2 metre markings for queues and screens at checkouts.
I understand that the Horticultural Trades Association, which has made the case for the re-opening of garden centres, continues to engage with officials about a stock compensation scheme. I would like to commend the HTA for the advice it continues to offer to garden centres on its website.
I have raised this matter with Ministerial colleagues to ensure they are aware of the concerns of the sector.