Thieves leave behind trail of destruction at Harrogate plant nursery

A plant nursery in Harrogate was left devastated after thieves left behind a trail of destruction as they stole a fuel tanker.

Thieves ran over around 10,000 plants at Johnsons of Whixley with a dumper truck that they stole off the site to tow a bowser containing 1,000 litres of fuel.

Managing director Graham Richardson told The Yorkshire Post that he was disgusted at “the wanton destruction that has taken place when it absolutely wasn’t necessary”.

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He added: “At a time when the whole of business is struggling to secure the long-term employment of staff, by their actions they have just made our business and the lives of those individuals that are dependent on it significantly less secure.”

Destroyed plants at the nursery in Harrogate.

The incident took place between 10pm and midnight on March 26. The truck was abandoned on the A59 with the thieves making off with the fuel.

Both the dumper truck and bowser belonged to a contractor working on the site to develop additional growing space for Johnsons.

The business is making extra space to accommodate plants that it won’t be able to sell as a result of the shutdown following the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Richardson said: “We’re approaching our centenary next year. We just had our best year ever but we’re now faced with the worst set of circumstances since the end of World War Two.

Around 10,000 plants were destroyed.

“The downturn in the economy is catastrophic. The fact that we are fresh produce producers, whose crops have a shelf life, means we are staring down the barrel of a huge waste mountain, which will unfurl as the months go on.

“The impact of that waste mountain will affect us for at least two years.”

Johnsons of Whixley had hoped that the damaged plants would aid its recovery once the Covid-19 disruption had ended.

While the destruction showed the “worst of humanity”, Mr Richardson said he had been touched by messages of support and direct offers of help.

The incident took place on March 26 between 10pm and midnight.

He said: “One construction company, who will be 100 per cent out of work and laid off themselves, offered to come in and help put it right.

“At a time when they are trying to ensure long-term security for their own staff, for them to make that sort of offer is the very opposite. That is the best of human nature.”

North Yorkshire Police said that enquiries are ongoing and that anyone with information that could help them with their investigation should contact the Force Control Room on 101 and quote the reference number 12200050956.

Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A tanker of fuel was stolen from the site.
The damage was discovered by staff at the business the following morning.