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Minister welcomes re-opening of garden centres in Northern Ireland

Northern Irish Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots MLA, asked the Executive to lift restrictions on garden centres and HWRCs, which was agreed at Thursday’s (14 May 2020) meeting.

Minister Poots said: “Following the Executive meeting yesterday and after considering the most up-to-date scientific and medical advice, I welcome the decision to re-open garden centres from Monday and the clarity provided for the public, that they are allowed to travel to household waste recycling centres. 

“We continue to ask people to leave the house as little as possible, but we must also give them the opportunity to be productive at home. As we move out of the spring months and into summertime, people want to get their garden into bloom so they can enjoy their outdoor spaces. 

“I therefore particularly welcome the re-opening of garden centres. The horticulture sector was reaching a critical tipping point, as sales crashed and profits plummeted – with only a very short trading window for summer bedding plants. Allowing people to visit garden centres while remaining safe, will provide a much needed injection of cash to these businesses that will help the future sustainability of the local industry. 

On HWRCs, the Minister said; “I would now urge councils, who have yet to do so, to re-open their household waste recycling centres as soon as is safely possible. This will allow people to recycle and dispose of their household and garden waste appropriately and responsibly. 

“Irrespective of the pressures of the current crisis, the increase in fly-tipping recently observed in our countryside has been inexcusable and must stop. It has polluted and damaged our local environment. 

The Minister continued: “Both garden centres and HWRCs have put in place strict social distancing measures to protect their staff and customers.  I’m sure everyone will welcome their re-opening and I urge everyone to adhere to the new, safer ways of visiting and using them.”

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Chairman, James Barnes, comments: “We welcome the Northern Ireland Executive’s announcement that garden centres will be able to reopen from Monday. We are in peak season, so this news will be welcomed both by gardeners and the garden industry – providing an economic boost and enable access to the mental and physical well-being benefits that gardening brings.

“We will work as an industry to safely re-open garden centres from next week, as we have done in England and Wales. The HTA has produced Safe Trading Guidance, which covers all aspects of how garden centres can re-open while ensuring staff and customer safety at all times.

“Although opening gardening centres is hugely welcomed, this isn’t the single answer for Northern Ireland nurseries. They are in the middle of a perfect financial storm of perishability and seasonality and have already disposed of tonnes of plants. These family-owned businesses need a Dutch-style grant aid scheme to help them to survive and prosper.

“This now leaves Scotland as the last remaining country in the UK yet to announce garden centre reopening. The Scottish horticultural industry have been left at a competitive disadvantage relative to all other parts of the UK. Consumers in Scotland will be confused why garden centres cannot open in their local area. We have outlined to the Government that the industry has social distancing measures in place in order to reopen safely. They should now announce a reopening date as soon as possible."

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