A SUCCESSFUL director has returned to buy a garden centre more than 20 years after he helped design and build it.

Alan Roper, managing director of Blue Diamond, opened Nailsworth Garden Centre, then called Waterside, in 1995.

He sold it to Kennedy's in 1998 before it was acquired by Wyevale.

Alan then joined Blue Diamond as the company's retail director in 1999 before being promoted to managing director in 2007.

Last year Blue Diamond took over the centre and Alan returned to where it all began.

"It's been quite a journey," said Alan. "Where did 25 years go? It's like it was yesterday.

"It's surreal but it's a nice feeling. "When you design something and you have to let it go you get emotionally attached. Nailsworth was a very emotional purchase."

Alan said that he woke up in the middle of the night and made the decision to buy back the Avening Road centre he had sold 20 years previously.

Nailsworth is Blue Diamond's 30th garden centre and one of several former Wyevale centres they have recently acquired.

Despite this, Alan admits that he would not have bought it had it not been for his long-standing connection with the place.

"I wouldn't have bought it, its on the small side for us. It's difficult to make money out of small centres.

"We'd have overlooked it," he said.

Alan has now overseen a one million pound refurbishment of the Nailsworth centre.

This included hiring new chefs and recommissioning the ovens in the centre's restaurant.

Previously all food was brought in frozen and heated up using microwaves, one of many ways Alan disagreed with the way the "neglected and tired" centre was being ran.

"I had to get it back. The whole place was just awful. It wasn't a small amount of money to pay.

"The only way we are going to maintain profitability is to deliver an experience.

"It's what I believe people who live in this area need. It's such a beautiful area, it's timeless.

"I have known this area for over 30 years, its barely changed," he said.