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  • Growing garden centre will expand its blooming business

    A garden centre run by the same family for more than 50 years is planning its first revamp in decades.

    Charlton Park Garden Centre in Wantage is planning to rebuild its outdated 1970s floristry section and “bring it into the 21st century” while business is blooming.

    The department, which sells carnivorous plants, cacti and tropical houseplants, will get new glass and aluminium roofing to bring it in line with the rest of the centre.

    Phil Stevenson, who runs the business, said: “This is something we’ve all be working towards for an awfully long time, to be in the right position to do it.

    “It’s really just updating and bringing the centre into the 21st century.

    “The old glass was historically used for growing and it was part of our old nursery, but now we need a clean roof, proper modern insulation and flooring.”

    The garden centre business traces its origins to Mr Stevenson’s grandmother Dorothy Stevenson, who grew plants in what was then her garden during the Second World War.

    In those days, the 1.6 acres of land which is now a garden centre was all a private driveway leading up to Mrs Stevenson’s home.

    Her land stretched back over several acres to the Humber Ditch in Charlton, but in 1947 the Government compulsorily purchased a large part of her land to build houses for workers at the UK Atomic Energy Authority in Harwell ? the estate now known as Charlton Heights.

    Dorothy Stevenson’s son Peter ? Phil Stevenson’s father ? set up a nursery on the estate after he came out of the army.

    He started growing his own flowers and selling them at markets in Wantage, Abingdon, Wallingford and Didcot, but quickly found it was usually cheaper to buy plants from Covent Garden dealers and sell them on.

    When he built his nursery he based it on his own experiences as a grower, using horticultural-grade glass supported by wooden frames.

    As the centre expanded over the years, new customer sections were built with safety glass supported by modern aluminium but the 1970s floristry section was never improved.
    Dorothy Stevenson continued to work in the floristry section until her death 16 years ago.

    Mr Stevenson said the cost of renovating the floristry department was not an “insignificant amount of money”, but that improved insulation should cut heating bills.

    The centre on Charlton Road currently employs 39 full and part time staff, almost half of whom have worked at the centre for more than a decade.

    Mr Stevenson added: “We all want to modernise the place and make it smarter.”

    The centre has applied for planning permission to Vale of White Horse District Council, and have been told to expect a decision by August 19.

    The full plans can be seen online at whitehorsedc.gov.uk using reference number P16/V1619/FUL and neighbours can comment until July 21.

    source

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