Companies report strong orders in the landscape construction market

Orders continue to be strong in the landscape construction market as residential soars, roof gardens gain popularity, landscapers adopt new techniques and the sector continues to battle the skills shortage.

Image: Flickr/Linus_art
Image: Flickr/Linus_art

Willerby Landscapes commercial director John Melmoe said the market is "going vertical". He added: "It's very busy and it's across the board. There's a lot of office commercial development coming through. It's mostly in London but it's starting to ripple across the country."

But he warned that there will be a skills shortage "with the volume of work that's coming through" and said it is "a case of training internally".

Frosts Landscape Construction contracts director Aidan Lane said the market is buoyant with a lot of enquiries but no less competitive, with Frosts discarding lots of tenders because of the high cost of tendering.

"We focus on the ones we have a chance of winning," he said. "People are still competitive. You've still got to be very sharp to win the work."

Lane said roof gardens and "smart podiums" - roof gardens on the top of lower buildings in multi-building developments - are on the increase. "Those kind of schemes are still pretty popular in the market. We've done podiums at Sloane Street in Chelsea and Surrey Quays in London for main contractor Mace and Barratt Homes.

"Green roofs are still around and we've been picking up more of them recently. It's been pushed by planning policy, the authorities and the developers."

Such schemes have yet take off in the north of England, according to Barton Grange Landscapes contract manager John Charnley. But he said the housebuilding market has soared. "We've probably done 300 houses so far in 2015. We tend to find that they are asking for a higher spec for plants and shrubs - better than before the recession."

There are lots of opportunities in education too. The company is working on landscaping a big scheme for a University of Liverpool site, currently on the second phase of planting.

"We're seeing the schools spending a bit more money now," he said. "There seem to be pockets of money coming through from the Government and Sport England."

Charnley explained that Barton Grange is using new techniques such as installing instant 1.2m-high beech hedging from Holland. Another is more tree planting using ratchet strap methods such as the Platypus system instead of sleeve wire around the root ball.

Association of Professional Landscapers chairman Mark Gregory said there is "a feel-good factor" with "everyone saying they are flat out". He has taken on four new apprentices but pointed out that increasingly the market is subcontracting rather than creating new jobs.

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