Sidmouth businessman reveals plans to make former business ‘special again’

A Sidmouth businessman has revealed he may buy back his old business or continue with plans to build a new one metres away after it was put up for sale.

Ian Barlow, who owned Sidmouth Garden Centre for 15 years, told the Herald this week that it was his intention to submit plans for a new centre on the same site in the autumn after a clause saying he could not compete for three years was up.

Wyevale Garden Centres announced it is to sell all 145 garden centres, including the Stowford site, and has put it on the market for £900,000 to either be bought individually or in a group sale.

Mr Barlow, who sold the business in 2015 for four times the amount, says he is ready for a new project and return to his love of gardening.

The businessman owns the 12 acres of land where the current centre is sited. As part of his proposals he would look to build a new centre, industrial units for small businesses, as well as car parking to help assist with the town’s parking problem.

He said the idea of a park and change, where drivers can stop, park and get a bus to Exeter or Sidmouth would be considered if it was practical.

Mr Barlow said: “I couldn’t do anything until September and when the news came along, I can now buy it back if it’s cheaper than what it’s going to cost to build a new one.

“My initial plan was to just build a new one with the business units and to my way of thinking these are small businesses that are suitable for small local companies that want to work and live locally.

“The units do not ruin the AONB. They would cost a little bit more money to have green roofs similar to Jurassic Vets but we can have the best of both worlds; the units look nice and we do not ruin the reason why people want to live here and it’s because it’s a beautiful area.”

During his time as owner, Mr Barlow and his team won numerous awards for customer service and he wants the garden centre to be ‘special again’.

Mr Barlow said: “The old garden centre is 15 to 20 years old. It needs reinvesting in for future generations.

“Business is my hobby, some people would call people workaholics, at the end of the day I’m not a workaholic I’m lucky to do my hobby all day long.

“I have to have a five-year plan and what I’m achieving then I like to complete it two or three years.”

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