New BALI chairman Robert Field has revealed that he supports a merger with the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL).
In his first interview since being elected at IoG Saltex last month, Field, who runs Robert Field Landscapes in Cornwall, told HW: "I think it would be a good idea (to merge). When our members say we want to get back together with the APL, then we can look at it.
"The two groups maybe have to align themselves more before it can happen and other organisations could come in too. Together we are bigger than apart."
At the two-day show in Battersea Park, London, HTA chief executive Carol Paris and BALI chief operating officer Wayne Grills held a lunch meeting to discuss how the two trade bodies can work closer together.
Speaking afterwards, Paris said they had "looked at our individual membership offering to see if we could give better value to our membership by working closer together". She added: "We need to speak with one voice."
Society of Garden Designers chair Juliet Sargeant said she is also in favour of a merger. "It would make life a lot simpler," she added. "We're having to deal with two sector organisations that are very similar."
All three organisations support the Landscape Collaborative Working Group championed by Paul Cowell and chaired by Field. He added: "BALI membership is already quite large. If you had everyone else in, it would be massive - the Government would have to listen to us."
But he said the BALI board needs its members to get more involved and tell BALI bosses how the association should be run. He hopes that a series of seminars launching this month will help draw out and engage more businesses. The practical sessions will cover topics such as contracts, paperwork and how to run a business. A total of 78 people have applied to attend the first workshop, testing mowers on slopes.
Field said BALI's involvement in organisations such as the All Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group and BALI technical director Neil Huck's work on new invasive species legislation adopted by the European Union has helped to boost the association's profile. But he added: "We have to continue with what we have been doing. We have to make the public aware."
BALI update - Strategic plan being revisited to 'get the story out'
BALI is also revisiting its strategic plan, which was established five years ago, over the next few months.
Chairman Robert Field said: "We need to keep the board focused and we need to get the story out.
"I've been in this industry for 30 years and I've loved every minute of it. People are passionate. All of us are talking to each other more. Even though the industry is full of smaller business, we need the bigger ones and we need the interaction with the Government."
Garden consultant Alan Sargent established the Association of Professional Landscapers as a breakaway group from BALI in 1995 to represent domestic landscapers and those with smaller companies. In January, he called for the two organisations to merge.