The landscape industry must become a certified trade

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An open letter from landscape consultant and HortWeek columnist Alan Sargent

I write as a professional landscaper with over 50 years of experience as an entrepreneur, a member of the Association of Professional Garden Consultants and a founder of the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL). Since retiring from construction, I have worked as an expert witness dealing with claims and legal disputes, primarily in the domestic sector. As such, I deal with around 80 cases each year.

I was a member of the British Landscapers Association (1978 – 1995) as an officer and council member, and since 1995 have been heavily involved with the PLA, acting as a mediator and regional verification. I have always encouraged excellence in all areas of garden design and construction, welcoming every legislation as it has been put in place. In my ideal world, anyone working in landscape construction should be licensed, ensure they have full insurance coverage for their work, and comply with all rules and regulations regarding the use of tools and equipment, both for the safety of the operator and general welfare of the general public.

Such a license would put the UK in line with many other countries, including the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, etc., where no one is able to perform landscaping work without being officially sanctioned by a renewable license system. each year on presentation of insurance certificates.

Britain has been at the forefront of getting the right legislation in place for the past 10 years or more. So many rules, regulations and laws including the Building (Design Management) Regulations 2015, SuDS regulations regarding flood control, many regulations under the building regulation system, management and sale of installations, British Standards on matters such as paving (BS7533.101) and others.

And yet, despite these excellent, common-sense regulations, to my knowledge, NOBODY has ever been prosecuted for ignoring or violating them. In all the court cases I deal with, the judge has no knowledge of the CDM rules, even though they have been the law for over seven years!

Homeowners are installing new driveways disregarding the SuDS regulation, which is designed to reduce flooding and facilitate groundwater movement. Plants are regularly sold without any form of documentary control, despite the strict rules that are in place.

I affirm that as long as the owners are not obliged to take cognizance of the Regulation, the work carried out on their property being deemed uninsured, the insurance companies refusing to take charge of any claim resulting from a non-compliant installation, this will always be the case.

The health and safety manager, who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the HOM’s regulations, seems unable or unwilling to enforce these excellent rules, and I submit that until the general public is made aware of their existence , the problems are only going to continue, with hundreds of lawsuits filed each year against companies that would otherwise make sure they were operating in full compliance with the law.

Where an owner cannot sell their property due to their new driveway not meeting SuDS regulations, or a property cannot be sold without a full CDM package upon handover at the time of sale, too landscapers and builders will continue to ignore the law.

I would welcome any help you can get 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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