Warrington-based Bents Garden & Home has started work on the second of three phases in a £10m expansion of the family run garden centre.
The restaurant will be extended and the food hall will double in size to 6,000 sq ft and contain fresh deli counters. The pet care and children's departments will increase in size with plans for a groom room and pet café. There will be community allotments and a new roundabout serving A574 Warrington Road.
Matthew Bent, managing director at Bents, said: "We've come a long way since the Bents' business was established by my grandparents nearly 75 years ago and the journey so far has been hugely enjoyable. Feedback on the work we've carried out to date has been extremely positive and despite growing in size we want to retain all the great things we already do. We want to keep the great feeling and ambiance we have worked hard to create, but in a bigger store."
Phase two is due to be completed by October 2014. The project is a design-and-build by contractor Eric Wright Group. The original architect was Bradley & Rich. The planning advisor is Malcolm Scott Consultants.
Once work is finished plans will get underway for the third phase, set to include a two-storey glazed atrium and new entrance to tie together various elements of the project. The third phase is scheduled to be completed within five years.
The latest phase will include investment in renewable energy technologies including one acre of underground pipes to provide geo thermal energy plus 200m² of photovoltaic cells. There will be electricity charging points in the car park for customers' electric cars and two-thirds of water used in the garden centre will be recycled from the existing 16million litre on-site reservoir.
Phase one included extensive car park improvements, children's adventure play area, Wild Wings Birds of Prey Centre and the start of work on Bents' environmental gardens ; 10.5 acres of proposed wildlife and ecological gardens which will include different zones such as a wetlands and marsh area, a willow holt, climate change garden and birch woodlands.