Noel Farrer reflects on time as president of the Landscape Institute

Outgoing Landscape Institute chief Noel Farrer has suggested there should be a stipend for those taking up the role in future to encourage true diversity. He called his two-year spell as president an honour. "It isn't necessarily always enjoyable, but it is a necessary job," said Farrer, who will hand over to Merrick Denton-Thompson.

Farrer: nearing end of Landscape Institute presidency
Farrer: nearing end of Landscape Institute presidency

Highlights of Farrer's time in the top job include the institute being invited to give verbal evidence to the House of Lords environmental subcommittee for the first time and high-profile talks, such as one for Open House entitled "Are we creating a sterile London?" that was attended by 240 people but more than 9,000 applied for tickets.

"The underwhelming part is you're often talking to the converted," said Farrer. "I gave three talks at the Ecobuild show in east London, which was great, but the people I needed to talk to were five miles away in Westminster. But I hope I have moved forward the agenda.

"Landscape meets all our political imperatives. It's not about the green agenda or green infrastructure, which serves only to stereotype our profession. Landscape addresses economic, health, well-being, happiness, housing and anti-crime agendas."

Farrer won the presidency pledging to try and boost membership from other landscape professionals. "This hasn't happened yet but it's not entirely a bad picture," he said. "In my two years I have helped change governance rules so, for example, landscape planners, who make up a sizeable part of our membership, are now recognised in our professional charter.

"Also, through governance changes licentiates will be able to vote. We've forged closer ties with The Parks Alliance and organisations overseas such as the International Federation of Landscape Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects, which has greater significance given the debate over Europe."

Farrer said he wants more diversity at all levels, including the top, and suggested presidents should be paid a stipend of perhaps £30,000 because "the reality is you have to be able to afford to become president and more junior or younger people might not have a chance".

Farrer said as a business owner he was lucky his presidency covered a time of reasonably good economic fortunes. "I would have hated it in a harder economic situation. A stipend would help augment income and provide a bit of glue in your organisation's structure."

When he stands down, Farrer said he will still remain active in the institute's affairs and remain as a representative on the Department for Communities & Local Government design panel.

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