JOY RIDERS broke into a commercial nursery and drove a dumper truck over thousands of plants.

Thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused to more than 10,000 plants and irrigation systems at Johnsons of Whixley's main nursery site in Kirk Hammerton.

A fuel tank containing 1000 litres of diesel was also stolen.

Staff at the family-run business discovered the devastation on Friday morning and reported it to police.

Eleanor Richardson, of Johnsons, said: "The thieves used a dumper truck of an external contractor to tow 1000 litres of diesel half a mile to adjacent fields to the A59. They purposefully drove over the plants."

She said a tracker on the truck showed it had been moved between 10am and midnight on Thursday. The vehicle was found abandoned by the side of the A59.

"What is most disturbing is the joyriding across the nursery which took place, wiping out 10,000-plus plants and part of our irrigation system. The value of this is thousands of pounds worth of damage. This is an extremely difficult time for businesses, and our production is the security of the future for us and our workforce.

"We cannot believe anyone would do this, especially at this time."

Johnsons of Whixley which was crowned Business of the Year at The Press Business Awards 2019, has faced falling orders since garden centres and shops closed.

"Business has slowed down," said Eleanor. "We are reducing staff numbers in conjunction with the regulations, demand and the need to look after millions of pounds worth of plants.

"The majority of our office staff are now working from home, and outside staff are adhering to the government recommendations of safe distancing.

"With garden centres closing, orders have been postponed or cancelled. We continue to supply construction sites and civil engineering schemes and are continuing to follow government guidance. Our onsite cash & carry for landscape affiliated trades has a one in one out policy."