The landscape industry should become a licensed trade

Alan Sargent

An open letter from landscape consultant and HortWeek columnist Alan Sargent

I write as a professional landscaper with more that 50 years of experience as a contractor, Member of The Professional Garden Consultant’s Association and founder of The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL). Since retirement from construction, I have been working as an Expert Witness dealing with Court claims and disputes, mainly in the domestic sector. As such, I deal with around 80 cases each year.

I have been a member of The British Association of Landscapers (1978 – 1995) as an officer and Council member, and since 1995, I have been heavily involved with the APL, acting as their mediator and regional vetting officer. I have always promoted excellence in all matters of garden design and construction, welcoming each piece of legislation as it has been brought into being. In my ideal world, everyone working in landscape construction should be subject to licensing, ensuring they hold full insurance cover for their work, and complying with all rules and regulations regarding the use of tools and equipment, both for the safety of the operative and general well-being of the general public.

Such licensing would bring the United Kingdom into line with many other countries, including The United States of America, Canada, Australia, Germany, France etc. where no person is able to carry out landscaping works without being officially sanctioned through a licencing system, renewable each year on production of insurance certificates.

Britain has been at the forefront of bringing appropriate legislation into being in the last 10 years or more. So many rules, regulations and Laws, including Construction (Design Management) Regulations 2015, SuDS Regulations in respect of flood control, many Regs under the Building Regulations system, Plant handling and selling, British Standards on matters such as Paving (BS7533.101) and others.

And yet, despite these excellent and common-sense regulations, as far as I am aware, NOBODY has ever been prosecuted for ignoring or violating them. Every Court case I deal with, the Judge has no knowledge of the CDM Regs, even though they have been the Law for over seven years!

Home-owners install new driveways without taking any notice of the SuDS Regulations, designed to reduce flooding and assist with ground water movement. Plants are regularly sold without any form of documentary control, despite the firm rules that are in place.

I aver that until home-owners are obliged to take notice of the Regulations, with any works carried on their property being deemed uninsured, with the insurance companies refusing to entertain any claim arising from a non-compliant installation, this will always be the case.

The Health & Safety Executive, who is in charge of ensuring compliance with the CDM Regs seems unable or unwilling to uphold these excellent rules, and I submit that until the general public is made aware of their existence, the problems will only continue, with hundreds of Court cases being brought every year against firms who would otherwise ensure they work in full compliance with the Law.

When a home-owner cannot sell their property due to the fact that their new driveway does not meet SuDS Regulations, or that a property cannot be sold without a full CDM package on handover at the time of sale, too many landscapers and builders will continue to ignore the Law.

I would very much welcome any assistance you can obtain from the Powers That Be, including Parliament, The Health & Safety Executive and the Insurance Industry.  

Alan Sargent FCIHort MPGCA, Alan Sargent Consultancy Limited

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