Melrose garden centre firm in liquidation

A WELL-known Borders firm has gone into provisional liquidation with one of its key businesses – the 100 Aker Wood garden centre and bistro in Melrose – expected to shut up shop tomorrow.

It follows the decision of Mark Riddell, founder and managing director of 1st for Fencing Ltd, to call time on the company he founded as a one-man enterprise 25 years ago.

His application to wind up his business, which has a workforce of 26, was granted at Selkirk Sheriff Court and it is now being run by Edinburgh insolvency experts and accountants Aver in their role as interim liquidators.

Emma Porter of Aver said: “We are acting in the best interests of creditors, so we have agreed that 1st Fencing Ltd should complete ongoing contract work in its order book into the new year when we will apply for interim, then full, liquidator status.

“We are trying to find buyers for parts of the business, but I expect the 100 Aker Wood centre to close down at Christmas. Mr Riddell has acted expeditiously and this is to be commended.”

Mrs Porter said she was unable to reveal the level of the firm’s indebtedness at this stage.

Mr Riddell told TheSouthern: “Needless to say, I am devastated at this turn of events which I have tried desperately and for some time to avoid in the hope trading conditions would improve,” he told us.

“I have fantastic staff, some who have been with me for many years as we have grown, and my heart goes out to them. I remain hopeful that some of the business can be salvaged and some jobs retained.”

From small beginnings, 1st for Fencing grew to become one of the region’s market leaders in erection of fencing and timber decking, opening the 100 Aker Wood visitor centre at Annay Road seven years ago and later adding a popular bistro.

“The root of our problems lies in the weakness of the Borders economy,” said Mr Riddell. “We have struggled to get paid for work completed, council and health board contract work is set to diminish, banks have been reluctant to lend and we have received little or no support from Scottish Enterprise.

“The cost impact of retaining a workforce, rather than using subcontractors, has been made worse by our third successive harsh winter.”