Uplift in enquiries buoys landscape sector but outside South East market remains tough

Landscapers report strong growth in the South East and reliance on richer private homeowners.

Mark Gregory - huge retail sales boost - image: HW
Mark Gregory - huge retail sales boost - image: HW

Enquiries to landscape and garden designers are on the up as two of the country's top housebuilders report a surge in interest following last month's Budget.

In an interim statement by Persimmon, the UK's third-biggest housebuilder, enquiries have risen by 30 per cent since the chancellor announced the Help to Buy scheme, which loans deposit money to buyers.

Barratt has also seen a "significant level of interest in the Help to Buy product", a spokesman confirmed.

Further down the supply line, a new forecast by the Construction Products Association is cautiously optimistic, predicting a slower rate of market contraction this year followed by growth from 2014.

But the picture among landscapers is patchy, with stronger growth in London and the South East and a reliance on richer private homeowners, large-scale projects such as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the buoyant London property market.

Mark Gregory, director of Landform Consultants and chair of the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL), said he is seeing "a massive boost of retail sales" in domestic garden design as better-off customers feel it is socially acceptable to be seen spending money again and the weather improved.

"APL members around London are picking up work," he added. "Some areas are buoyant but some locations are dead."

Paul Cowell, managing director of PC Landscapes and immediate past chairman of BALI, said it is early days but he has also seen a surge in enquiries. "It does feel like it's picked up and it's a different type of mood."

He predicted developers sitting on approved planning permission are likely to get moving first

Frosts Landscapes commercial director Aidan Lane said the company has seen a consistent six months of good-quality enquiries but the pricing market is still competitive with re-pricings common on tenders.

"The real market is in London and that's where the market is going to be for the future," he added. "We're seeing a lot of mixed-use developments and new residential blocks. But some areas of the country are very different."

Churchman director Andrew Thornhill said a quiet first quarter has exploded over the past two weeks but that is not the case outside London, with a notable continued contraction in public-sector works.

Persimmon Figures

5% increase in visitors to its website so far in 2013 compared with last year.

4% increase in weekly private sale rates compared with 2012.

24% rise in enquiries January to March 2013 compared with 2012.

30% increase in enquiries March-April compared with the same period last year.

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