What are your priorities? The association's main strength is the range of expertise, combined with its passion and commitment. We have more than 2,000 members, which is a lot, but we can't be complacent. We are surveying them to find out what they get out of it and what they would like to get out of it. We need to engage more effectively with the membership. We also need to provide career progression to practitioners through advice and training while keeping our fees at a reasonable level. That should also include things like marketing and business skills. We are not here to make a profit, but to raise standards.
Would you like to see members doing more themselves? Which of our experts will put their hand up to answer an enquiry? We should have experts to hand on everything from sustainable drainage to biosecurity.
So you would like to see the association raise its public profile? We are a communications hub, with information coming in from many sources, then out to our members and to other organisations. But we weren't being asked as much as we should. It's fundamental that we work with allied organisations. We have good connections with the International Society of Arboriculture, Institute of Chartered Foresters, Royal Forestry Society, Forestry Commission and Forest Research — there's no silo mentality. We also want to educate and inform the public on the importance of amenity trees and of maintaining them professionally.
What changes have you already made? We now have a five-year strategy, broken down into one-year business plans, the first of which has been agreed with the trustees and is now being deployed. We have concentrated on membership initially, so won't be doing much with the public this year. Work has started but we won't see dividends until next year. That will be our 50th anniversary and a great opportunity. We're going to raise the profile of trees, the message needs to be compelling. But trees have a huge impact on social well-being as well as the environmental benefits. They also materially affect your house, your garden, your road — and if you can give them a financial value, that also carries clout. This also means influencing Government and other public bodies, and we are working actively at Governmental level with the rest of horticulture.