Highgate Garden Centre to close down fuelling speculation that luxury homes could be built in its place
An historic garden centre in the heart of Highgate is set to close its doors for good this month.
The owners of Highgate Garden Centre made the announcement this week following speculation that the business was under threat.
Capital Gardens, which runs the centre, sold the freehold to the land on which it is located – known as Highgate Bowl – in September last year fuelling fears the prize green space could be used to build luxury homes.
Managing director of Capital Gardens, Colin Campbell-Preston, said the centre would close in the next couple of weeks.
He said: “We have decided to close the garden centre and focus our efforts on our business in Alexandra Palace.
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“We’re holding a closing down sale next Friday so will close once we’ve sold our stock.”
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He said the final decision was made at the weekend after sales at the Highgate site, which has been used as a garden nursery since the 1940s, were down 34 per cent.
“That was the trigger when we said enough is enough after battling on through the years,” he added.
“We are all sad but the staff understand it’s a decision that was inevitable.
“The difficulty here is that you would have to spend a lot of money on the retail premises to put it right and when you have to drag customers in off the high street it doesn’t make economic sense.”
He hinted that the site would probably end up with some houses but could not confirm what the new owners’ intentions were.
The site was bought for £2million by a company called Omved International Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands.
Mr Campbell-Preston said two of the garden centre staff would take up new roles at Alexandra Palace, while three had decided to leave and others had taken redundancy.
“I’d like to say thank you very much to everybody who has supported us and sorry, but it’s just one of those things,” he said.
Chair of Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, Maggy Meade-King, urged the new owners to engage with residents to agree a way forward.
She said: “It’s a real shame that we are losing the nursery because it’s been a resource for the people of Highgate so that’s a huge pity. Now of course we are very concerned about what’s going to happen to the site.
“We would like to keep it as a green space and if it was to be developed we would hope it would be kept for educational or horticultural use.
“We have some very interesting ideas but we fear there will be yet another planning application for luxury housing, which is hardly a priority for our area, and we are also concerned because so far the owners have been unable to talk to us at a forum.
“So my plea to the owners is to work with us and the community.”
Her views were echoed by Michael Hammerson from the Highgate Society, who said: “It’s not unexpected but it’s immensely disappointing.
“We want to get together with the new owners and discuss what their intentions are, explain to them the background, and campaign to keep the site as some sort of viable open space.”