Developer survey reveals move away from high-density housing

Landscape sector buoyed by trend for larger homes and gardens but smaller firms face squeeze.

Latest house building trends show developers are moving away from high-density urban schemes in favour of out-of-town developments with larger houses and gardens.

This should mean good news for the landscaping sector, but does it sound the death knell for smaller contractors?

The annual housebuilder survey carried out by estate agency Knight Frank revealed that a weak first-time buyers' market coupled with the Government's abolition of density targets meant developers were moving away from high-density oneand two-bedroom apartments.

The study showed threeand four-bedroom houses were the most in demand, while 64 per cent of the survey's 200 respondents predicted the number of houses on future developments would reduce, reflecting the move away from urban and apartment-led schemes.

Knight Frank head of residential research Liam Bailey said: "Most developers incorporate landscaping in their schemes so this trend would seem to be good news for the landscaping sector, although not all of them will invest in landscape."

HTA director of business development Tim Briercliffe agreed. "If there is a genuine move to more houses, fewer apartments and therefore more gardens, this can only be a good thing for society and the landscape industry."

But David Houghton, managing director at landscape gardening firm Kings Landscapes, warned that although it would create more work it would only benefit large landscaping firms.

"The market is moving forward but the trend towards these high-end schemes is going to squeeze out small firms and one-man bands. It is getting much harder for smaller companies trying to compete for work," he added.

Houghton said the recession had created a climate where private-sector developers would only trust large, established landscape contractors. "They are frightened the medium and small firms are volatile and don't have the cash flow or man power to get the job done."

Clients' expectations were greater than 10 years ago, he added, which meant many small firms would not have the resources to fulfil their needs. "The only way small firms will benefit from this is if they can specialise in certain products that other landscapers don't provide."


- Proportion of housing developers surveyed predicting fewer houses in future building schemes 64%

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