THE new owner of a garden centre has praised its staff and says he hopes to create new jobs within the next 12 months.
Martin Stewart, managing director of Dorset-based Stewarts Garden Centres, was speaking during a visit to Abbey Garden Centre at Titchfield.
The garden centre, which is next to the 13th century abbey, was acquired by Stewarts at the end of last year for an undisclosed sum. The site covers seven acres and employs 42 people.
Martin, whose father, Edward, is credited with introducing container-grown stock to Britain as well as the garden centre concept, said the company had exciting plans to develop the Titchfield site.
But he stressed Stewarts would only proceed with the full support of English Heritage, which owns the abbey, and the garden centre’s five closest neighbours.
Martin said: ‘The support we’ve received from staff has been overwhelming and I can’t praise them enough. They are awesome.
‘They welcome the fact that, after years of under-investment, we are committed to improving the site and giving the business some much-needed tlc. The coffee shop is a priority, but work needs to be done everywhere.
‘We will also be looking to create new jobs over the next 12 months and take full advantage of the centre’s proximity to the abbey.’
Martin praised the work of his accountants, PKF Francis Clark, during the acquisition of Abbey Garden Centre.
Stewarts, which employs 280 staff, can trace its roots back to 1742 when it was founded by Charles Stewart, the great-great-great-grandfather of Martin Stewart.
The company has two garden centres in Dorset – Broomhill and Christchurch – as well as landscaping businesses. Many plants are grown in its nursery and are also sold to other garden centres in the UK and Channel Islands.