Landscape contractors report mixed fortunes on orders

While some contractors report being busy, others struggle to reach three months' worth of orders.

Landscapers are reporting mixed fortunes with work orders although some say they are booked up beyond three months.

BALI chairman Paul Cowell said: "I know people who are struggling and have only one month of orders in front of them, but others are quite busy, and it's across the board in terms of size of the company."

Association of Professional Landscapers vice-chairman Mark Gregory said: "It's bleak and challenging and members are telling me that pricing is more aggressive.

"Most domestic landscape designers and builders only ever have two or three months of work booked up. I've work well into next year thanks to RHS Chelsea Flower Show but haven't a clue what is happening nearer June. There's money around, but people aren't spending."

Scandor Landscape Contractors has contracts beyond the next three months, according to managing director Trevor Scott. "We have a framework agreement with Hampshire County Council, which is around 30 per cent of our work.

"But filling the voids is getting harder and our tender success rate has gone from one-in-four to one-in-eight because it's more competitive. Work for play schemes has tailed off but developers are building more old people's homes, which helps."

At staff hydro-seed specialist RMB Craftscapes, which has five staff, managing director Franklyn Melville-Brown said: "We haven't seen a big change and still get lots of enquiries, but waiting for the nod from the main client is always hard."

He added: "Our biggest problem is getting money out of clients but small firms have to take the risk and do business."

One firm reporting "more than enough work" is CR Swift Landscaping. According to business development manager Steve McMillan the firm has contracts on big road jobs.

"I am sure that a lot of people are struggling but there's no doubt work is out there. A lot of work comes by word of mouth, so good quality is an absolute must."

A trade survey for the third quarter published this month by the National Specialist Contractors Council, whose members are dependent on the construction sector, found one in three of it members were expecting a fall in orders and half were planning fewer then three months ahead.

Construction view

"This quarter's results from our survey show what a debilitating effect the lack of work in the construction industry is having on the specialist sector.

"Government investment is desperately needed to restore confidence in the long-term recovery of the industry and the wider UK economy."

Suzannah Nichol, chief executive, National Specialist Contractors Council

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