Benn praises role of horticulture

DEFRA secretary of state Hilary Benn likened the growing environmental awareness of British people to the industrial revolution at the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group's meeting with the minister last week.

Benn said the horticulture industry has a "hugely important role" in the current greening revolution of the UK. He said the impact of this was likely to be as big as the Victorian industrial revolution and backed calls from the industry to call for other ministers to set planning policy to include provision for more green space.

HTA director general David Gwyther said Benn was positive about the Greening the UK and Greening the Games campaigns, adding: "It's pleasing to hear him say that. He recognised this is a big industry. It hits the DEFRA agenda of climate change and environment. He recognised commercial planting can make the environment better (as well as) social well-being and personal health."

Other issues raised were the importance of research and development. Gwyther said: "It's being eroded. Research stations are being demolished and funding from DEFRA cut."

He added that Benn heard how the levy board structure should cough up real savings with "horticulture being 25 per cent of UK land-based production so it should get 25 per cent of savings".

Gwyther said he asked Benn to focus on the two-thirds of peat used by consumers rather than the one-third used by industry.

BALI chief executive Sandra Loton-Jones, who discussed pesticides, said: "It was a very positive meeting. Mr Benn asked questions on every point we raised."

Royal Parks director Mark Camley, who spoke on apprenticeships, said: "We'll produce a briefing paper setting out what was raised in detail in the next two weeks."

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