Diarmuid Gavin will cut ribbon
A MULTI-MILLION pound garden centre and park opens in the Westcountry today and is expected to attract visitors from "all corners of the South West".
The 140,000 sq ft development at Trago Mills in Newton Abbot, Devon, is thought to be the UK's largest centre offering "core gardening" products.
Trago business development director Andrew Nunn said the centre would focus on supplying value-for-money gardening equipment, stocking everything from shovels and spades to sheds and greenhouses.
A pioneering drive-through area will allow shoppers to select bulk goods which can be loaded straight on to their vehicles and driven away.
The development also includes nine garden displays, alongside a picnic area, to inspire visitors and allow them to enjoy a full day out at the park.
Mr Nunn said the development was a "regional destination garden centre" and he expected visitors from as far afield as Cornwall and Somerset. "People in the South West are used to travelling quite a long way to experience something good. We will attract people from all corners of the South West."
Trago Mills, which runs discounted shopping complexes around the Westcountry, is a major employer in the region. The company has invested £8 million in the new development at Newton Abbot, employing local contractors throughout the construction.
Mr Nunn said it would provide an additional 20 full-time jobs once fully open. He added: "We're a local community business. We're based in Devon and Cornwall and proud that we continue to reinvest in the local economy. "
Today's opening marks the latest stage in the Newton Abbot site's recovery from a major fire which engulfed the shopping complex in October 2004, costing millions of pounds.
It is anticipated the new development could add £5.5 million to turnover. The project has been in the pipeline for eight years. Original plans were approved by Teignbridge District Council planners but it was controversially called in by the Government in 2006 and a public inquiry was held even though there were no major objectors.
In November 2006, it was given the go-ahead by then local government minister Ruth Kelly.
Proposals for five ornamental towers alongside the centre were under threat when Teignbridge planners recommended rejecting them for being an "eyesore", despite Trago's existing 32 towers.
Teignbridge Council's development control committee waved the plan through last November.
The centre officially opens this morning with celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin cutting the ribbon.
About 1,000 balloons will be released at the launch, each with a gift voucher attached valued from £20 to £50.
There will also be a live gardeners' question time, with a panel including Diarmuid Gavin and fellow garden designer Paul Stone.
Mr Stone, who has won gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, designed the display gardens at the Trago Mills centre.