Clays Garden Centre boss urges Government to rethink coronavirus ban on opening

The boss of one of Sunderland’s best-loved businesses is urging the Government to rethink the rules on which shops can open during the coronavirus lockdown.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 10:45 am
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 6:08 pm

Clay’s Garden Centre boss David Clay believes the Government is missing a trick when it comes to promoting the health benefits of gardening while people are being forced to spend so much time at home.

And he says garden centres could apply the same rules that supermarket are using to protect customers.

Now he has has written an open letter, calling for a rethink on what constitutes an ‘essential’ business: “My business falls into the ‘non-essential’ category, meaning I am precluded from opening to the public,” it says.

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David Clay

“However, the well-known chain store next door to my premises is allowed to continue trading unimpeded.”

Clays is launching a contactless delivery service from April 30, accessible through the centre’s Facebook page, but has been carrying out assessments in the meantime to ensure it is able to put adequate measures in place to protect customers when the go-ahead is given to reopen.

“We have assessed the risks associated and identified solutions. Access would be limited, the sanitisation of baskets and trolleys would be a high priority and signage in relation to social distancing would be both clear and prominent,” said Mr Clay.

He says he is worried about the jobs of his staff and warns a prolonged shut-down could devastate the industry.

“Clay’s is not part of a national chain, it is a family-owned and operated independent garden centre with well-established roots in our community,” he says. “We were established in 1949 and have served the people of Wearside ever since.

“I fear that, without urgent intervention from the government, the business that has taken three generations of my family to build and nurture could be destroyed with one fell swoop.

Mr Clay said gardening had real benefits during lockdown: “We need to identify practical and responsible ways of encouraging and supporting people to stay at home, whilst also remaining physically and mentally healthy. Gardening provides a great opportunity to exercise in an enclosed area where social distancing measures can be easily maintained.”

“Being outdoors also exposes people to vitamin D, which helps the body to absorb calcium and keeps the bones strong and the immune system healthy.

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