Landscape and amenity professionals react to Brexit

Reactions within the landscape industry to the news that Britain will leave the European Union ranged from concerns about volatility to anger at the potential repercussions for the environment and for Europeans in the UK.

Landscape industry reacts to news that Britain is to leave the EU. Image: Pixabay
Landscape industry reacts to news that Britain is to leave the EU. Image: Pixabay

Garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin said he was "heartbroken" at the results of the referendum, which has so far caused the pound and bank shares to tumble and Prime Minister David Cameron to resign.

Fisher Tomlin told Horticulture Week: "I work with younger generations through our college and organisations such as Streetscape and I am heartbroken for these young people the vast majority of whom wanted to remain in the EU.

"Many have told me they will consider moving overseas if we leave which makes my heart sink that we lose so much talent. It will undoubtedly have a serious impact on horticultural colleges and landscape departments that rely on international students and for private colleges like my own we are already very aware in the first 24 hours after the vote that it will be a very different climate over the next five years at least."

A "backward step" for the environment

Landscape architect Noel Farrer - speaking in a personal capacity rather than in his role as president of the Landscape Institute - called the move a "backward step", and also raised concerns about the staff at his landscape practice, half of whom are European and could not vote in the referendum.

He said the move was "without a doubt a backward step for the environment" and warned that the UK government would not legislate with landscape in mind.

"The right decisions for all aspects of changes to the landscape and its on going stewardship are long term and joined up.  The decisions we need are by their nature altruistic and selfless because the investments we make in time and money are for the benefit of society and the environment in the future.

"This fundamental pre requisite is lost and disappears in a world where we are heading towards self control, thinking of one’s self rather than the wider community and reinforcing boundaries which in natural systems do not exist."

"The EU, through the European Landscape Convention and the legislation on clean water, pollution, recycling and fishing to name a few, are the [majority] of the environmental legislation that holds UK people to account on environment. The UK government does not and will not legislate responsibly towards our landscapes as it is practically impossible to do so within our legislature based on a five year cycle and the needs for short term financial returns."

The Landscape Institute had held a debate on the EU during the campaign as it was concerned that the environment was not being discussed in the wider debate.

The organisation issued a statement saying: "After the result of the referendum,  we do not know precisely what the impact on the landscape will be but we are committed to working with others to ensure that environmental issues are to the fore in future UK governance structures and our negotiations with the EU."

On Twitter, Thompson & Morgan's Michael Perry said he had "shed a tear".  Nurseryman/TV gardener Toby Buckland said: "Little Britain has just become a whole lot smaller." Garden writer Nigel Colborn said neonicotinoids "might be back in universal use" post Brexit.

TV gardener Monty Don said: "Well I truly did not believe that this would happen. However we will, as ever, muddle through. But it does feel like a terrible mistake."

However garden designer Janine Pattison was more upbeat, saying it was "easy to be all doom and gloom".

"But the reality is, having not only survived but thrived as a practice through the recession of 2008 by working exceptionally hard and offering an outstanding level of service, our attitude is ‘business as usual’. The world will keep on turning.

"Above all, we need to focus on training, training, training. We have a responsibility to continually develop the skills and capabilities of the teams we employ; encouraging them to work hard and contribute to the strength and depth of our industry."

"Tremendous spirit" will help the amenity horticulture sector pull through

Phil Jones, managing director of ISS Facility Services - Landscaping, said the move was a "momentous decision" by the UK.

"There seems to be a shock apparent around the country, not least amongst those who supported the leave campaign, who seem surprised to have pulled this off."

Jones, who is also chair of the BALI-National Contractors Forum, had predicted that the most significant effect of a leave vote would be the uncertainty that followed, which has now "clearly begun".

"Those in our sector will probably not experience much change initially, but will be keen to secure assurances that where we deal with the other EU countries through trade of plants, equipment and materials, that we will not suffer any detriment. Indeed the best way to deal with change in my experience is to seek to benefit from such change.

"It is now for our trade associations and those others who represent us at sector and national level to ensure we are kept safe from volatility which could be to the detriment of our industry. We have a tremendous spirit in the land based sector, particularly in amenity horticulture and I'm sure this will help deal with the challenges that we are about to face."

Challenging times for business

Shares at landscape supply firm Marshalls lost a fifth of their value today, while housebuilders also saw share prices plummet. Barratt Development's share price is down 23 per cent, Berkeley Group is down 19 per cent, Persimmon is down 27 per cent and Taylor Wimpey is down 28 per cent.

BALI has pledged to support members through what will undoubtedly be challenging times for businesses. 

Chief executive Wayne Grills said: "There will be members who will be celebrating this morning and those who will be looking at the future with genuine concerns for how Brexit will affect their businesses and ultimately their families’ futures.

"No-one has taken their decision lightly and it is BALI’s role to offer guidance and support to its members through any immediate impact from the Brexit vote."

In the immediate term BALI will be speaking with other industry bodies and the All Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group (APPGHG) to establish as quickly as possible how the industry can protect its interests.

BALI is also the UK’s representative body within ELCA – the European Landscape Contractors Association – and BALI Technical Director Neil Huck of Ground Control is currently ELCA Vice President. It is anticipated that BALI will be able to continue its membership but once the UK exits the EU it will have no further role in influencing ELCA’s lobbying of the European Parliament on European issues.

Grills continued: "The UK landscaping and horticulture industry will have to come together quickly to formulate an action plan designed to assist governments in prioritising those areas that will affect us in the short to medium term. We will keep our members informed every step of the way and work to ensure the ‘Leave’ decision allows them to continue to prosper, whatever course of action lies ahead." 

"Business as usual" for immediate future of pesticide use

Amenity professionals who use pesticides will need time to fully understand and respond to the changes following Brexit, according to Professor John Moverley, chairman of the Amenity Forum which represents the sector.

"The fact is that in the immediate term it is business as usual and, as the transition process moves forward, the Amenity Forum will seek to work closely with all involved.

"In terms of weed, pest and disease control, the UK has adopted the Sustainable Use Directive in its National Action Plan and nothing therefore is again set to change in the immediate term. The UK has been a leader in promoting and adopting best practice and again the Amenity Forum, acting on behalf of the sector, is ready to engage with UK government in months ahead.

The forum would work to keep amenity professionals informed and will focus on the repercussions at its 13 October conference, he added.

Market shock could hit council budgets further

Local authorities will be profoundly impacted by the move as many local government regulations are governed by EU law, the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) pointed out.

Procurement, environmental protection, employment matters could all be affected by the changes, while councils could be bracing for further funding cuts if the Government produces an emergency budget or other measures to stabilise the economy, APSE said.

APSE has called on the Government to ensure local government services are protected and local authorities fully consulted as alternative policies and laws are developed.

Chief executive Paul O'Brien said: "It is not for APSE to judge the outcome of the referendum. The British people have voted for change, however we must not allow the results of the referendum to bring a further assault on local government finances. The ship is only just steadying from years of austerity budgets and now is not the time to crush the progress that local councils are making in bringing about stable local government services."


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