Landlords are increasingly recognising the importance of the landscape surrounding properties, which is leading to work for contractors and consultants, according to industry figures.
Consultant Sid Sullivan told HW: "Social housing landlords want to improve the environment and landscape maintenance around their properties. From a position of getting no enquiries, I am now getting a couple of enquiries a month, which is unheard of.
"Social landlords are asking me how to let contracts and maintain their grounds."
Sullivan added it could have a knock-on effect for the landscaping sector, as social landlords increasingly looked to improve the areas around housing.
Wolverhampton Homes last week awarded a £790,000 contract to Continental Landscapes and in the past fortnight Scotland-based Link Housing Association and Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association have awarded contracts worth millions of pounds.
Linstone Housing Association has also awarded a £340,000 grounds maintenance contract to ISS Waterers Landscape.
Ginkgo Landscape Contractors partner Dan Curran said his business was surviving the downturn as a result of work in this field: "Around 60 per cent of our work is commercial and that's mostly in social housing with Notting Hill, Peabody Trust and Citywest Homes. During the winter enquiries were down by 60 per cent, but we were saved by our work on social housing."
Gallions Housing Association green spaces manager Steve Pyke runs four parks for the body and said people were often surprised by the amount of space owned by social landlords.
Peabody Trust landscape regeneration manager Mathew Frith has been at the forefront of pushing the social housing improvement agenda and is encouraging other social landlords to look at the benefits of their landscapes. "I have detected a change in attitude and that is partly down to the groundswell of activity in the parks and green-spaces world, which is starting to seep through along with the food growing agenda," he said.
BALI chairman Richard Gardiner added that he had seen a trend in social housing work.
"There certainly seems to be work out there and there is a move to improve on the landscape," explained Gardiner. "The housing associations are operating on an almost competitive level and there have been more offers coming up."
- See Landscape Review regeneration feature, p25.