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Aerial view of Tutt Hill site

Aerial view of Tutt Hill site

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Garden pottery supplier invests £3.5m in Ashford

Aerial view of Tutt Hill site

Aerial view of Tutt Hill site

Ashford-based Vatre Terracotta Ltd, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of high-quality garden pottery, has announced plans to invest £3.5 million in a new warehouse, storage and distribution centre in the area.

If the investment plans are approved, they will safeguard more than 30 local jobs that may otherwise be in threat should the firm be forced to find an alternative site outside the borough. The expansion would also enable more staff to be employed as the business expands its range of products offered to more than 1,000 garden centres in the UK and Ireland.

Vatre Terracotta is the company behind the Apta pottery brand and is an exclusive supplier to the Royal Horticultural Society. It has two locations in Ashford, a head office in Dencora Way and a distribution site at nearby Leacon Road; however the company has outgrown both and has spent two years scouring the area for new premises.

Now the firm as found a six-acre parcel of surplus land which is owned by Oakover Nurseries at Tutt Hill on the A20 north west of Ashford. The planning proposals or the land include commercial use for the import, storage, sorting and distribution of garden earthenware products, a two-storey warehouse and office, plus 32 car parking spaces.

Managing Director Paul Sykes believes the land is the perfect base to enable the company to pursue expansion plans that have been curtailed by the lack of space at its overcrowded sites.

“We are a growing business, an Ashford success story that’s been based in the town for more than 30 years. In 2009 we had a £6m turnover; today that is £13.5m. As we have grown we’ve had to lease adjacent buildings but that’s an expensive solution and is not sustainable in the long term.

“But after two years of searching, it has proved difficult to find the right site that meets our particular needs for a price we can afford,” he adds.

Describing the Tutt Hill site as “the ideal solution”, Paul says he’s delighted to be doing business with Oakover Nurseries. “There’s a real synergy between us, the markets we supply and a mutually shared business ethos. We are both long-established Ashford companies, with a passion for customer service and supported by a loyal local workforce. 

“Tutt Hill is very important to our future in Ashford because if our planning application is successful it will allow us to remain in the town for the foreseeable future.

“The A20 site is big enough for us to expand; it’s got excellent vehicle access and is convenient for the M20 and for our imports by road from Europe. It’s also within easy reach of Ashford so our existing workforce will have good access, and, above all, it’s affordable.”

Vatre Terracotta is a firm believer in working with local suppliers, for example the architect and the landscape designer for the project are both based in Ashford. “We also have long-standing relationships with other suppliers like ACE Transport. These are fantastic people to work with and they rely on our business,” says Paul.

He says moving to a bigger site will allow the firm to expand and diversify into other products, such as garden furniture. “In recent years we have made the difficult decision to decline several opportunities because we simply weren’t in a position to compete properly from our current location, but with a move to a bigger site we can invest in expansion and that will lead to more jobs and prosperity. Another option we can consider is developing online sales.”

The company also believes that the new site will deliver important financial benefits by consolidating all of its activities onto one site with excellent transport links outside central Ashford.

A decision on the scheme by Ashford’s planning committee is expected in December.

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