Garden centre owners vow to resubmit scheme to district council after pulling expansion plans to double in size

Pennells Four Seasons Garden Centre near Silk Willoughby. EMN-190209-234653001
Pennells Four Seasons Garden Centre near Silk Willoughby. EMN-190209-234653001

The owners of a Sleaford garden centre have explained why they have pulled plans to double the scale of the site in the face of hardening opposition from neighbouring villagers and the district council’s own economic development team.

Pennells, who recently acquired Four Seasons Garden Centre on London Road between Sleaford and Silk Willoughby, officially withdrew their proposals from North Kesteven planners after facing over 50 objections from residents and council officials, who feared it would erode a village’s character and damage regeneration of the town centre.

Managing Director Will Pennell has now explained: “The plans were withdrawn as we felt they were too broad and didn’t give enough detail.”

But he added: “We do fully intend to resubmit plans in the future and hopefully address concerns raised.”

Pennells were proposing to extend onto agricultural land behind the existing site, more than doubling its size.

In paperwork which had been submitted to NKDC planners, Pennells had explained that they had recently acquired Four Seasons Garden Centre and wanted to expand it, to be more in line with their other outlets in Lincoln and Cleethorpes, offering restaurant facilities together with other types of retail/concession outlets such as a food hall including butchery, shoes, clothes, beds, craft, spa pools, conservatories.

Through negotiation with the adjacent land owner at Silk Willoughby an agreement had been reached to acquire the necessary land for expansion of the existing garden centre. Detailed plans were to be submitted later.

But in an update on Tuesday NKDC announced that it had received notification that the plans had been withdrawn by Pennells’ agents.

Significantly, NKDC’s own economic development team had objected, warning expansion had “the potential to damage Sleaford town centre at a particularly sensitive time for our High Streets”. They added: “The main thrust of economic development policy in Sleaford town centre is to stem the flow of leakage of residents consumer spend. This proposal is in complete contradiction to this policy, and undermines the regeneration aspirations contained in the district’s Our Economy priority.”

Silk Willoughby Parish Council had strongly objected saying: “What the proposal will not be is a small garden centre which is how it originated.”

Forty-two residents attended a meeting in the Village Hall on August 20 called by the Parish Council.

The Parish Council urged residents to object as soon as possible, to this initial request for planning permission.

In response, there had so far been 50 letters of objection from residents, some setting out their reasons at great length.

Jacqueline Andrews from the village said: “If this were allowed it would have a detrimental effect on the village, including the increased amount of commercial and domestic traffic through this small village, which incidentally has a very narrow road near the pub, through which all this traffic has to pass.”

She added: “There is also a question of light pollution.”

People were also concerned it would bring the village ever closer to losing its character by being absorbed by the town as had happened to Quarrington and Holdingham.