Boss shuts garden centre to prevent 'mingling' in lockdown

  • Watch a report by Charlotte Wilkins

The owners of a garden centre in Sussex have closed the business to customer visits for the duration of the third lockdown, because they do not feel that buying garden products in person should be classed as ‘essential shopping’.

Adrian Hillman, who owns Rushfields Plant Centre near Brighton, says that the pressure on the NHS is the main reason he has decided to shut up shop, even though he does not have to do so.The last week has seen customers browsing rather than buying, issues with social distancing and disputes over masks.  

We’ve got a family member who is a front line doctor and the stories that we’re hearing from her about the pressures that the national health is under... I think it’s at breaking point, so we decided that nothing that we sell is essential in the true definition of the word essential, so we’ve made the decision to close to stop people from having the opportunity to mingle.

Adrian Hillman, Garden centre owner

The opening of garden centres during the third lockdown has been allowed after campaigning during the previous shutdown, highlighting about the mental health benefits that gardening can bring to people who have to stay at home.

The Horticultural Trading Association (HTA) says that it has seen a huge interest in gardening since the second lockdown and that customers have continued to be engaged with gardening into the winter months.

We support all efforts to contain and eliminate this virus. We recognise that it is unsettling times for the industry, staff and customers. Garden centres offer so many real benefits to people wrestling with the impact of this pandemic…

Gardening provides mental and physical health benefits, garden centres being open supports British growers and local communities and keeps people at home with something to do. First class social distancing measures are in place in light and airy environments.

We will continue to make the case to Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for garden centres to be reopened at the earliest opportunity.

Horticultural Trading Association

Over at Ashford in Kent, Dan Cornish who runs Harringe Plants agrees with the HTA. He feels that it is important to stay open.

I’d say it’s very important to visit garden centres during this lockdown, just for mental health and to get yourself outside, give yourself something to do in the garden.

Dan Cornish, Garden Centre manager

Rushfields Plant Centre will stay shut, although staff will continue to serve customers through online shopping and click and collect instead. Meanwhile, the management say that people can still buy groceries and other essential items from their farm shop.