CSR analysis - Landscape

Contracts forecast to get smaller as competition grows tougher

Large-scale landscapes are out for designers and new contract models are in for contractors after the comprehensive spending review.

British Association of Landscape Industries technical director Neil Huck said: "Central and local Government contracts for maintenance will become a different animal - lower frequency and standards, therefore fewer staff needed.

"Will the private sector follow suit? I think yes in terms of new-build projects. Large-scale redevelopments are a thing of the past, but work will continue on a smaller scale. This trend could last for 10 years. There will be a big fallout as projects such as the Olympics finish, but there are still opportunities. A few large schemes, such as Crossrail and the M25 widening, will throw up work for landscapers."

Landscape architect Noel Farrer added: "Amazingly, there could be a net gain of landscape work. The public sector can no longer build big - schools, hospitals, houses. But there's a political imperative to build certain things and landscape fits that bill. It can be retrofitted into existing housing and the retention of the Playbuilder scheme suggests the Government is hinting that it needs to be seen to be doing something. Landscape professionals can pounce on that.

"Building booms can yield a boring monoculture that benefits the big boys and gives us heavy-handed procurement and design - think Building Schools for the Future. Most landscape practices have fewer than 10 staff. And when times are tough, competition hots up, which spawns diversity and allows talent to sparkle."

Frosts Landscapes director Aidan Lane said: "It will hit the public sector and therefore will have repercussions on private work. Small and medium-sized firms are likely to feel more pain. But it's too early to forecast job losses and closures. Everything may get very cheap as competition forces people desperate for work to win it at a loss. Local authorities will tighten their belts. It will get tougher and more competitive."

Landscape Institute chief executive Alastair McCapra said: "Public-sector commissioning is going to shrink drastically and there are few indicators that the private sector will pick up the slack.

"The one hope is the drive to cut bureaucracy in local government procurement. I hope it will soon be simpler for small firms to bid for work."

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