Award-winning Midlands garden centre, Webbs of Wychbold, is to undergo major expansion in a £5 million building project which begins this week.

Work will start on adding an extra 62,000 sq ft of new covered retail space - trebling the existing area and making Webbs one of the largest independent garden centres in the UK.

The expansion will allow it to increase facilities for customers such as extending the size of its restaurant, improving the till facilities and trading space for successful departments as well as introducing new product ranges.

The new areas are expected to open in mid summer next year.

Webbs maintains it is already the biggest garden centre in the Midlands and a major local employer with about 300 staff. The expansion is likely to mean an extra 70 jobs will be created. At the start of the year Webbs was officially named the top plant seller in Britain by judges from The Garden Centre Association.

Managing director Ed Webb said: "These are very exciting new developments for the company.

"We already have over a million visitors a year and the new area will mean we can offer our customers an even wider choice of products. As always we will continue to put high standards of customer service and expertise at the core of everything we do.

"We passionately believe that continued investment in the Garden Centre at Wychbold will enable us to reward our loyal customers with a truly special shopping experience and introduce a whole new generation of customers to Webbs for years to come."

Wychavon districtistric t councillor Judy Pearce said: "I fully welcome the new development and the additional local employment that it will bring. I look forward to seeing the new and enhanced building open during 2006."

Webbs is a family business success story going back to the middle of the nineteenth century when Edward Webb was a successful agricultural seeds merchant. Webbs' seeds became a household name and Webbs were appointed seeds men to every monarch in succession from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II.

Ed Webb has recently taken over from his father Richard as managing director. Ed is the great, great, great grandson of Edward Webb who began the business.

Richard Webb remains as company chairman.

A & H Construction and Developments, of Halesowen, is to carry out the work.

Meanwhile the extraordinary battle for control of Wyevale takes a new twist today. Shareholders will vote on rebel player Laxey Partners' proposal to remove chairman David Williams at an EGM in London.

It will be a close run thing because Laxey has 28 per cent of the shares.

It seems to believe it can get more out of the group by selling off as many sites as possible for housing.

Laxey wants to replace Mr Williams with Robert Ware, the former deputy chief executive of property company MEPC.

However, Wyevale believes it can enhance value for shareholders via "more intensive use of our sites through higher performance retailing, not from break-up, 'sale and leaseback' or large scale redevelopment".

A recent property revaluation said the centres were valued at about £265 million.