Garden centre owner tears up council order and REFUSES to close

Garden centre owner tears up council order and REFUSES to close his doors because nearby Aldi is allowed to stay open and sell ‘identical’ products

  • Tony Joyner, who runs Plants Galore in Exeter, was told to close by the council
  • But he has ripped up council order after saying some of his wares are essential 
  • Insists he will also continue selling plans because supermarkets are allowed to  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The owner of a Devon garden centre that was told to close its doors has opened today in defiance against an order he believes is ‘completely unfair’.

Tony Joyner, who runs Plants Galore in Exeter, became one of the first businessmen in the UK to be served with a prohibition order after falling foul of new Government public health restrictions implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Joyner said he has ‘ripped up’ the order issued by Exeter City Council, saying an Aldi supermarket just 300 yards away is selling identical products but has not been issued with an order. 


Tony Joyner, (left) who runs Plants Galore in Exeter, (where a customer is pictured today on the right) is staying open for business despite being told to close by the local council 

Mr Joyner said he had ‘confirmed with the Government that we can remain open’.

‘We are a hardware store, that’s the definition of our business,’ he said. ‘We sell home and garden tools and accessories in our store, just like B&Q and the supermarkets who are allowed to stay open.

‘The Government have said if you are able to open – which we are – you can sell anything you usually stock.

‘We are absolutely open and ready for business. We have a completely safe shopping experience with all the necessary safety protocols in place. It is safer shopping here where everything is open than it is in some small off licence.

Why is the local B&Q allowed to stay open despite selling a similar range of products?

Stores that sell products the government deems ‘essential’ are allowed to remain open. Hardware is considered essential, meaning B&Q can continue to welcome customers. 

There is no list of non-essential’ products shops that remain open are not allowed to sell, so the chain can continue to stock anything it wants, including flowers.  

Mr Joyner insists that because he also sells hardware he should be allowed to remain open. His store also stocks pet food, another essential product. 

However, Exeter City Council insists these products are only a sideline and his main business – selling plants – is non-essential.  

‘Some people won’t like it that we’re open, but if we close we will go bankrupt. Personally I feel like I have two options, this isn’t a moral decision for me. I will lose my house.’

Unlike many garden centres, Plants Galore grows its own bedding plants, at nurseries in Exeter, Plymouth, Newton Abbot and Yeovil.

The company faces financial crisis if forced to throw away its current stock, valued at £1million. At this time of year the company would expect to take in £200,000 a week.

Mr Joyner said that due to the small size of his delivery fleet the most he can deliver to customers is £10,000 a week. He said he could furlough his staff on 80% wages paid by the government but would still suffer hefty losses   

Mr Joyner has criticised both the police and Exeter City Council, saying they don’t understand the rules and were ‘all over the place’.

‘We’ve had so many police here today, you’d think we were drug dealers – we’re trying to sell plants,’ he said.

‘We had police in the Exeter branch this morning asking if we are allowed to be open, which we are.

‘Why can’t we just shop safely? We don’t need this close down the way it’s being handled.’

Mr Joyner said he has ‘ripped up’ the order issued by Exeter City Council, saying an Aldi supermarket just 300 yards away is still selling identical products

Plants Galore became the first business in Devon to fall foul of new Government public health restrictions when it was served with a prohibition notice on Friday, March 27.

Exeter City Council said it had committed an offence under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations 2020 by selling flowers and seeds.

While restrictions allow certain types of essential shop to remain open, Plants Galore, as a nursery, is not one of them, despite also selling a range of hardware goods and pet food.

Mr Joyner said the order would cost his business more than £1 million and lead to the job losses.

He has also said the ‘unfair’ order could lead him to launch legal action. 

The company grows its own plants and faces financial crisis if forced to throw away its current stock, valued at £1million

‘It cannot be fair that we are prohibited from selling these products while the local authority continue to allow other retailers to sell identical products on our doorstep,’ he said.

‘We are desperately trying to avoid the business going bankrupt and having to lay off 70 employees.

‘It seems to be one rule for supermarkets and other large national chain stores and one rule for Plants Galore – no consistency or fairness being applied.’ 

Supermarkets have reported 22 per cent up on sales – they will make massive profits this year and other businesses will go bankrupt – there has to be a better way to manage this situation.

‘At our Exeter store we are just 300 yards from Aldi supermarket where 30 trolleys of garden plants are selling in their car park,’ Mr Joyner said.

‘It cannot be fair that we are prohibited from selling these products while the local authority continue to allow other retailers to sell identical products on our doorstep.

‘We cannot understand why we are alone in receiving a prohibition notice while the council simply ignores other retailers.’ 

Exeter City Council said: ‘The government have introduced these measures for a reason – to save people’s lives. We understand the financial reality but would urge businesses and customers to adhere to Government legislation and help save those lives.’ 

Mr Joyner said that due to the small size of his delivery fleet the most he can deliver to customers is £10,000 a week

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