Select committee hears from landscape sector

The landscape sector has taken a step forward in getting its voice heard in Parliament after Landscape Institute president Noel Farrer presented oral evidence to the House of Lords National Policy for the Built Environment select committee on improving awareness of green infrastructure.

Noel Farrer
Noel Farrer

But the 29 October evidence session also highlighted the continuing perception that the landscape and horticulture sector is fragmented and does not speak with a collective voice.

The Lords questioned Farrer and the Land Trust's Iain Taylor on green infrastructure-related issues such as the need for proof of its benefits and the argument for its inclusion on development balance sheets.

The 29 October event was the first time the Landscape Institute has presented to a select committee, which Farrer said shows the emerging importance of green infrastructure. Farrer told Horticulture Week it was pleasing to see the committee members had a good grasp of the issues and were asking searching questions.

"Green Infrastructure is all encompassing and a fundamental piece of the jigsaw but has lost traction recently with the stripping out of a lot of planning policy. I felt the committee really took that point on board and did recognise the importance of green infrastructure. It'll be interesting to see what their final report recommends."

Chair Baroness Detta O'Cathain drew comparisons between landscape and horticulture and the construction industry, which has a 100,000-strong trade association. She asked whether the landscape industry could benefit from something similar to make its voice heard.

Farrer told HW he agrees that the sector still needs to improve its collective voice. "We do have a number of well-regarded trade bodies and associations but cannot be compared to the construction industry, which is much larger."

He added that the Town & Country Planning Association-administered Green Infrastructure Partnership would be an excellent vehicle through which the industry can collaborate because it now has more freedom than when it was co-ordinated by Defra.

Farrer also warned that as local authorities lose skilled staff their contribution to the green infrastructure debate is diminishing. "Green infrastructure has no statutory representation here and is therefore vulnerable to cuts. This is exacerbated by the absence of green infrastructure planning policy shown through the current gaping void between national planning policy and local neighbourhood planning."

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