Reacting to the announcement that Northern Ireland will introduce further restrictions lasting six weeks from Boxing Day, James Clark, Director of Policy and Communications at the HTA, said: “Although the developing situation with coronavirus is clearly something that demands action, we firmly believe garden centres provide an important service in enabling better mental and physical wellbeing for people who are trying to manage the impact of restrictions on daily life.
There is no evidence that garden centres are a covid transmission risk - in fact they provide large and airy environments, which have been enhanced by the introduction of first-class social distancing measures - and should be able to stay open. For NI retailers and growers - whose route to market depends on garden centres, going into the key Spring season on the back of a long lockdown period will be hugely damaging to their businesses. Growers are putting planting plans into operation now. This, coupled with the negative impact EU Exit plant health regulations will have on Northern Ireland’s consumers and businesses, means we need the Northern Ireland Executive to better recognise our industry. We are asking for an urgent meeting with NI ministers to classify garden centres as ‘essential retail’ with a view to getting garden centres open as soon as possible.”