Landscape industry dismayed over coalition cuts to school building programme

The landscape trade and its suppliers have reacted with dismay to news that cuts are to be made to the £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme that will stop work at 700 schools, which have yet to reach financial closure.

The news was announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove this week who said the programme did not represent value for money for the taxpayer and had been characterised by overspends, delays and bureaucracy.

Some 700 schools that have had "financial closure" on building projects will have their construction work go ahead, Gove said, but another 700 will see work cease.

It comes as a blow to landscapers and suppliers who had relied on what was the biggest schools building programme since the 19th century to carry them through a dearth of work in the private sector.

Farrer Huxley Associates has been a member of several bidding teams for BSF projects and director Noel Farrer said: "It will be damaging for the industry and it will be damaging for my practice. We have schemes on the stopped list and I don't know who to contact. Education overall accounts for about one-third of our work and the bottom line is I know BSF accounts for a big chunk of that so it's a significant change for us. But I know that for other practices it will be even more, particularly practices that are part of the local education partnership."

Bristol-based firm 4D Landscape Design was involved in the first BSF project to complete - Brunel Academy - and director Michele Lavelle says it would be a problem for many practices: "It is very worrying, especially for those that rely heavily on educational work. It's going to slow things down even more."

Suppliers to the landscape trade were also frustrated. Johnsons of Whixley joint managing director Andrew Richardson said: "It's just very disappointing for all of us. Last year we all did a huge amount of work on BSF. For the whole business it is a great concern."

Palmstead Nurseries joint managing director Bob Chapman said: "It reduces the demand for plants overall so even if it was other nurseries that were going to get that trade it means there are more plants around and prices will be more competitive."

Boningales Nurseries managing director Matthew Mott added: "It will have an impact on us because BSF was providing a significant amount of work - it was a massive programme."

The Government has launched an education review that could see some of the projects go ahead at a later date.

It will be led by DSG international group operations director Sebastian James and will look at how to meet parental demand, make design and procurement cost-effective and overhaul how capital is allocated and targeted.

The 123 academy projects still in development, which have not reached financial close, will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Gove also cut the £972,000 annual funding for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) for design advice on the BSF programme.


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