The expected closure within weeks of Squires Garden Centre in Maidenhead Road has reopened controversy over the Royal Borough's plan to allow houses to be built on or around the Green Belt area where the business is based.

Squires announced at the start of the year it would close the centre, blaming Green Belt planning constraints that had restricted its ability to expand.

This week Cllr Ed Wilson, Conservative councillor for Clewer South ward on the Royal Borough expressed regret about the closure, saying: "Having lived in this area for more than 25 years I have always known a garden centre on this site. It’s a great shame that Squires are going especially for their staff and suppliers.

"Squires cafe is used as a meeting place for many residents. Dedworth needs more community facilities with or without our garden centres."

He said the council hoped to establish a new community cafe in Dedworth to replace the one at Squires - it would be run privately but would probably be built on council land.

But opposition councillor Wisdom Da Costa, who represents Clewer North an an independent member was unimpressed.

Opposition councillors are convinced that the council's stated aim of allowing housing development on Green Belt area currently inhabited by Squires and the nearby Wyevale garden centres has contributed to the closure Cllr Da Costa said: "It is a pity the Conservative Administration opened the way for the garden centres not just to be sold, but overdeveloped with possibly hundreds of houses and many hundreds of cars."

A statement from Sarah Squire, deputy chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres this week removed any lingering hope the centre would stay on its present site.

She said: “Many of the team have already found alternative employment in the local area. Some have chosen to engage in further study or travel. We are obviously keen for our colleagues to stay with Squire’s where possible at our other centres and we are in constant touch as opportunities arise.”

The company has hinted in earlier statements that it would consider setting up a centre on another site in the Royal Borough if one could be found.