Chancellor's spending plan shift could assist landscape industry

Fast-tracking government spending on public-sector projects including schools, hospitals and social housing could provide a "shining light" for the landscaping sector in the coming months.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has announced a "re-prioritising" of government spending plans in a bid to prop up the economy.

The Treasury is expected to be fast-tracking construction schemes using money now that had been earmarked for future years.

HTA chairman and Johnsons of Whixley managing director Andrew Richardson said he was keen to see action. "This should instil some confidence but we need to tug the chancellor's coat tails to see the money is actually there," he urged.

"The proof is in the pudding and how soon we see the money there. But the real problem is the length of time it takes to get planning permission on these schemes."

Projects such as the £9bn Olympics and £16bn Crossrail scheme are still set to go ahead, and the additional work from smaller public-sector works could boost the sector, as long as landscaping is a key element, said Coles Nurseries managing director James Coles.

"The economic issues haven't hit home in our sector yet, but I'm fully expecting they will in the new year; the construction market has more or less ceased," he explained.

"But if the Government is willing to put big money into projects it could be good for our sector."

During an interview with the Sunday Telegraph last week, the chancellor admitted government borrowing would have to rise to pay for the work, which could include pushing forward schemes such as the Building Schools for the Future programme.

BALI chairman and Premier One Land Services managing director John Gillan said: "The Government is already in debt and if it is bringing forward more projects through borrowing at some point it has to pay the piper.

"But the quicker the projects can be brought up and running, the bigger the positive impacts for the landscaping sector will be."

Darling will flesh out many of his proposals in the Pre-Budget Report, expected in the next few weeks.

Crowders sales manager Tom Owen said: "The shining lights for our industry are the schools and hospitals programmes. If suppliers are working with the landscape architects on those projects they will do well."

Hillier Nurseries amenity division director Hossein Arshadi said: "If the initiatives get off the ground it will have a positive impact. Landscape contractors buy things other than trees and shrubs so it will spread across the whole industry."

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