In November 2016 Newspan shared the industry’s shock at seeing Ansell Garden Centre destroyed by a devastating fire. “There couldn’t have been a worse time to suffer such a blow to our business,” said Ansell’s MD Paresh Raithatha. “We were holding more stock than at any other time of year and looking forward to a busy run up to Christmas. All our stock was lost to fire and water damage, six weeks before Christmas”. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the blaze, although the damage to the garden centre and all its stock was catastrophic.
Within a couple of days of hearing the news, Newspan were on site to offer support and to try and help find a way forward for Ansell. “Support from our customers, suppliers and the industry afterwards was overwhelming,” recalls Paresh, whose team were unwavering as they sought a way to start trading again as soon as possible. “Within just a few days, we had reopened from a gazebo in the car park, and that was how we continued to operate while planning the new garden centre”.
Initial discussions with Paresh made it clear he had bigger plans than to just replace what had been on site previously. Ansell wanted to use the opportunity to rebuild in a way tailored to their needs in a brand new centre. Newspan were quickly shortlisted to provide a proposal on the new masterplan. “We opened a dialogue with Newspan early on inviting them, along with other contractors, to look at architects Malcolm Scott’s plans and submit their proposal…we quickly narrowed down the list of potential building suppliers.”
During the design phase there were many changes to the building and Newspan maintained a flexible approach throughout, taking the time to discuss each potential modification with Paresh in depth. The planning process was made slightly more complicated by the centre’s location within the bounds of ‘The London Plan’, which imposed stringent performance ratings that the buildings needed to achieve. To accomplish this within the budget of an independent, family-run business Newspan value-engineered the project wherever possible. “Newspan worked closely with us through every revision of the design and maintained constant communication to make sure we ticked all the bureaucratic boxes, without going over our budget,”Presh said. The constraints of ‘The London Plan’ and the site’s close proximity to Heathrow Airport meant the planning took 28 weeks, rather than the 14-18 weeks Paresh and his team were hoping for.
Whilst still working through the building design, Newspan optd to demonstrate the ‘delivery’ phase of their approach and to provide a live and impartial review of their service. A meeting was arranged between the team at Ansell and an existing customer - without anyone from Newspan present. The landlord of the then named Bridgford Garden Centre, Edward Tarbatt, showed Paresh and his team around the project, which was well under way. Newspan were in the thick of their ‘Delivery’ phase on site at East Bridgford Garden and Home, with 12 weeks to completion. The aim was for Paresh to see the onsite teams in action and get live feedback from the customer.
Paresh described his aims of the visit. “We wanted to get a genuine picture of what it was like working with the guys, rather than seeing the honeymoon after opening a new building when it’s all finished”. Natta, a potential main contractor for Ansell, were actually working with Newspan at Bridgford at the time, which gave Paresh a valuable insight to both companies, their relationship on site and the overall delivery. “What we found was that Newspan and Natta had a really good, well established working relationship…it was seeing the teamwork in action that made the choice for us.”
The Ansell team managed to keep trading through the project in all weathers, still with the tills underneath the gazebo they purchased two days after the fire. Once the build got under way, Paresh’s time was understandably being pulled in all directions so Newspan maintained pretty much one point of contact for him in the office, with the rest of the team working in the background. “Rather than always needing to go via the main contractor, direct contact with Dan Woods improved communication, which was excellent throughout. Newspan’s team in the office gave great support too.”
Following a mid-May start, the Newspan team were done on site by mid-August, ready for a soft opening in November 2018, almost two years to the day after the fire. The stunning new 2,090sq.m. garden centre incorporates a café, a polycarbonate canopy, an aquatics concession, three staircases, mezzanine floor and a lattice rafter framed entrance porch. Paresh and his team now have a purpose- built, modern, high performing garden centre ready to welcome not only their loyal customer but also those new to the Ansell experience. Paresh and his customers are thrilled with the outcome. “Feedback from our customers has been amazing and we’re really looking forward to our first summer of trading in the new building.”
Although the new store hasn’t been open long, Paresh has progression in mind. “We already have plans for more development within the next couple of years, and Newspan have put themselves in a strong position to be back here working with us again then.”