Landscape Man Matthew Wilson calls for end to small budgets in Palmstead speech

Channel 4's Landscape man Matthew Wilson will make an "impassioned plea" at Palmstead Nurseries forthcoming Soft Landscape Workshop for the landscaping industry to say 'no' to small budgets in the future in order to save the industry and raise the standards of our public spaces.

Wilson said: ‘‘If enough of us said ‘no’ maybe things would move on from where they are now where landscaping is often an afterthought; something tacked on at the end of a project and not properly funded."

Wilson, who will speak at the annual event on the 22 September at the Ashford International Hotel, said the current situation facing the landscaping industry was not sustainable:

"One of the sad realities of the recession will be that there will be far fewer of us at the end than at the start, but we need to come out of the recession and collectively attempt to raise standards and the level of budgets by actually saying ‘no’ to doing things on a ridiculously small budget."

Wilson pointed to Germany, America and Scandinavia as countries who are innovatively applying budget and thought to green spaces:

"In the UK, landscape architects are always struggling to cover costs and so in order to make a profit on a job are forced to resort to a tried and tested formula. It’s not the fault of the landscape architect, it’s down to the lack of money applied to the whole process. 

"In Scandinavia there’s something like 10% of the total cost of the development applied to the outside environment.  You’d struggle to find a development in the UK where that overall cost has been applied to the landscape."

Wilson said he believed that public landscaping and green spaces had never recovered from the introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering in the 1980s: "When CCT was introduced by the Conservatives and the absolute insistence that the winning quote be the lowest quote given, then public landscaping was shafted."

With a new coalition government bringing the Conservatives back into power far ranging cuts have already been announced including the proposed cuts to school building projects.

Asked about the danger of further cuts and damage to public spaces Wilson said:

"Until there’s recognition at a high level that green space has significant impact on our behaviour, and until it’s properly funded then we’re always going to be going round in circles and scratching for scraps at the table. In the industry, we know that good quality space has a regenerative impact on communities, but this needs to be properly recognised by agencies and the government."

Palmstead Nurseries marketing manager Nick Coslett said: "We’re looking forward to discussing this topic with Matthew at our forthcoming event as he illustrates something that virtually all of us within the industry know; that there are enormous benefits from good green space in our communities, and it seems that either the bean counters or developers and particularly the politicians are unable to grasp this.

It’s a regrettable situation because opportunities for green spaces that make a positive contribution are lost with excessive frequency, and it’s only occasionally that we see enlightened developers like Wayne Hemingway working with Wimpey, put more thought into the communal space – a space which makes a community."

Other speakers at the annual event will include; Sarah Price, Bert Griffioen, Paul Bramhill and Andrew Wilson.

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