Katherine Ryan comes out fighting for local garden centre

Living Magazines Katherine Ryan at Woods Garden Centre

Comic Katherine Ryan has joined the campaign to stop a popular independent garden centre being driven out of business because of competition from supermarket giant Waitrose.

Katherine lent her support to Woods of Berkhamsted during filming for Channel 4’s Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back programme.

The plight of Woods – facing an existential threat because of neighbouring Waitrose’s stand-alone garden centre – will be featured in an upcoming series.

Canadian Katherine, who hosted last week’s NME awards, posed as a ‘brand ambassador’ for Woods to make a hilarious spoof promotional video to be featured in the C4 programme which champions consumer rights.

But on a more serious note on Thursday she told assembled locals, campaigners and Woods customers that independent local shops were vital for communities like Berkhamsted, and how important it is that Woods remains open ‘for the next 40 years’.

Katherine also gathered names for a petition, calling on Waitrose to reduce its garden centre offering, which was then presented to the supermarket in St John’s Wells, less than 100 yards from Woods.

More than 4,000 people have already signed a change.org petition to stop the closure of the popular High Street store. Pleas to senior managers at Waitrose to reduce their offering of bedding plants etc have fallen on deaf ears.

Woods Garden Centre managing director Colin Campbell-Preston said: ‘It was a delight to host Katherine and the crew from Channel 4’s Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back.

‘Katherine made quite an impression as a ‘brand ambassador’ for Woods but I can’t say any more until the programme goes out.

‘The support we have received from the local community and customers has been amazing and we once again call on Waitrose to reduce their garden centre offering to save Woods from closure with significant job losses.

‘Woods is a proud member of the Berkhamsted community through the work we do with schools, charities, theatre groups, encouraging young and old to get involved in creating a beautiful and sustainable environment.

‘However after almost 50 years we may soon cease to exist. It would be very sad for the town to lose another independent retailer.’

The issue dates back to a planning application by Waitrose in February 2013. This proposal was for a small installation of fixed horticultural units on a site area of 4.60 sq metres at the front of their store.

Mr Campbell-Preston said: ‘However Waitrose have gradually increased their offering over the years through the use of a large number of metal trolleys outside the front of the store to create what is, pretty much, a complete garden centre offering.’

Woods Garden Centre is part of Capital Gardens, whose two other garden centres are flourishing while sales figures show Woods has struggled ever since the 2013 development of Waitrose’s rival offering.

Pictured L-R: Lucky Acan, from Woods, Katherine Ryan, Sarah Webb, Woods manager, and Colin Campbell-Preston, Woods managing director.