STEWARTS Garden Centres reopen tomorrow (May 13) – but the managing director says he is “apprehensive and cautious about the prospect.”

The Dorset-based horticulture business, which has centres in Christchurch and Wimborne, will introduce a limit to the number of people allowed in the shop at any one time.

The Christchurch site will allow 75 customers, while the Wimborne branch will limit the number to 45.

Garden centres are allowed to reopen in England from tomorrow for the first time since the lockdown was introduced at the end of March.

Managing director Martin Stewart said: “We are ready to open, however we are apprehensive and cautious about the prospect as we want our teams, and all visitors, safe.

“We have set an initial limit (as advised by the Government guidelines) of 75 Customers within the garden centre at Christchurch, with 45 at Broomhill and Abbey. We will review these figures on an ongoing basis.”

“We clearly have no idea how many people will turn up to shop, so have no idea how long a queue we might get.”

Mr Stewart urged people not to “rush down at once” and said that the garden centres had been filled with fresh stocks of bedding plants in particular.

Coffee shops will not be open and are expected to remain closed for “quite a while.”

Family groups will not be allowed along with children under 18 or dogs and there’s a maximum of one person per trolley.

Mr Stewart stressed that while under normal circumstances the garden centres were a place to browse and meet friends, he urged customers not to treat them as such during the initial phase of reopening.

Public areas have been cleaned along with trolley handles, chip and pin machines and wipes and sanitiser points have been set up at the entrance and around the centres.

Visitors are also urged to abide by social distancing guidelines and wear face masks if they wish.

Mr Stewart added: “Please, please, please, help us make these next few days orderly and safe. We do not wish to have any ‘issues’ at Stewarts. We need this to run in a calm and orderly way as we start to try and emerge from this difficult period.”

The garden centres will operate normal hours but there will be no late night opening on Thursdays for the time being.