Watkins calls on Landscape Institute to face challenges

The incoming president of the Landscape Institute has put a brave face on the challenges facing the sector in a ceremony that was overshadowed by last week's emergency budget.

Jo Watkins officially became president-elect on the same day that the coalition Government's axe fell on public-sector funding.

"Despite the recession, it is essential we continue to train the next generation of landscape architects," he said. "The past two years have been the toughest for the institute. It's a credit to Neil Williamson we came through intact."

Outgoing president Williamson added: "The past two years have seen economic downturn and measures today and in the autumn will affect all of us in the public and private sectors.

"It's important to remember and maintain our key objectives - to protect conservation, enhance the natural environment and foster and disseminate knowledge, research and education on landscape architecture."

CABE chairman Paul Finch said: "As we see inevitable cutbacks in public funding, it's good to remember the significance of voluntary groups and independent professional institutes. You don't miss them until they're no longer there."

But he added that the institute "fits in with the David Cameronian proposition" for "Big Society" - people doing things because they believed in them, not simply because it was a job.

"Public bodies have to take these cuts with all the stoicism we can muster. But we need to change the cliched image of landscape as a little bit of horticulture that can be snipped at the end of a poorly conceived project," said Finch.

"The way to do that is to be part of a strategy, not part of a tactic. The institute has done this in pointing out the wholeness of an approach to the environment.

"This is where trees, water, management of planting and the way people use space is seen as a fundamental part of the environment, not something you can stick on as Band-Aid design to get poor schemes out of trouble."

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