A 'DRAMATIC' increase in jobs at one of the Yorkshire's largest garden centres has been promised by the new owners after the business changed hands in a multi-million pound deal.

Tong Garden Centre, in Tong village, has been required for an undisclosed sum by two East Yorkshire businessmen who have promised significant investment in the 17-acre site in Tong Lane.

The business- which bounced back from a devastating blaze in 1999 and employs about 140 staff - has been sold by Ron Harker ,who is retiring after running Tong Garden Centre with his family since 1984.

Entrepreneurs Tom Megginson and Mark Farnsworth.who several business interests, have acquired the freehold of the site in a deal handled by business agents Ernest Wilson who were appointed by Mr Harker to review the market and find a buyer.

Mr Megginson said: "We have been looking for a new site and having been introduced to Tong Garden Centre by Ernest Wilson, it allows us to harness our previous business experience and take Tong Garden Centre from a successful business to a multi-million pound turnover business which will not only provide a fantastic destination for our customers but will also dramatically increase the number of employees thus helping the local economy."

Jonathan Holmes, of Ernest Wilson, said: “As one of the largest independently owned businesses in West Yorkshire it has been a pleasure to act on Mr Harker’s behalf in the sale of Tong Garden Centre and ensuring Ron now enjoys a well-deserved retirement.

“The purchasers have some very exciting plans which I believe will really put this business on the map as one of the best garden centres in the region.”

Tong Garden Centre was officially re-opened by TV gardening celebrity Charlie Dimmock in 2001, 18 months after a major blaze destroyed its main buildings.

Following the fire, which was tackled by more than 80 firefighters, the garden centre was re-built with a range of buildings including retail sales, a restaurant, warehousing, glass houses and poly-tunnels extending to more than 110,000 sq.ft. with car parking for 700 vehicles.

The new centre, a 63,000 sq ft structure, built incorporating Yorkshire stone and traditional slate roofing, stocked more than 10,000 products at any one time, ranging from plants, shrubs and trees to aquatics, pets and wild bird feed, to garden furniture, stoneware and gifts.

The £3.5 million refit also created 50 new jobs at the site, taking the workforce to 140 and incorporated eco-friendly design features include using rainwater piped from massive storage tanks collected from giant gutters.