HTA urges garden centre drought ban exemptions

THE leading trade association for ornamental horticultural businesses has responded to a consultation by Portsmouth Water with an urgent call for the unique needs of the sector to be considered in its plans for handling drought bans.

The water company, which covers the major growing areas of West Sussex and Hampshire, has recently consulted on its drought plans, which include suggested bans on “watering outdoor plants on commercial premises” and “watering in newly bought plants”.

Now the Horticultural Trades Association wants to ensure the industry would not be at risk from the measures.  It has called for an exemption for commercial plant and tree growers, garden centres and landscapers to be able to water their plants and trees during a drought and highlight the sector’s support for water capture infrastructure projects, such as more self-sufficient water systems like reservoirs and efficient irrigation systems.

Portsmouth Water’s area is the base for 14 HTA grower members who have an estimated collective annual turnover of more than £100 million. In addition, there are 12 garden retail centres in the same catchment, some part of larger chains, with an approximate combined annual turnover of over £1.8 billion.

‘Outright bans on our members’ abilities to  water  plants and trees would be ruinous’

Hundreds of people are employed in the sector across the region. If bans were implemented crops would likely fail, plants die and jobs be lost. Grower businesses supply plants to garden retailers and domestic and amenity landscapers, both locally and across the country. If plants were to fail due to a ban on watering, the consequences would be felt nationwide and the whole £24 billion UK ornamental horticulture industry would be at risk.

Martin Emmett, Chair of the HTA Ornamentals Management Committee and Director of Binstead Nursery near Bognor Regis, said: “We know that the southeast of England is a water-stressed area. Our industry is playing its part in conserving and using water in the best possible way through innovations in irrigation and water catchment/recycling, but we know more needs to be done and changes made sooner.

“However, outright bans on our members’ abilities to water plants and trees would be ruinous. We want to collaborate with Portsmouth Water to find a way forward on exempting ornamental horticulture businesses from a mains water ban, but also get their support in making it easier to develop water infrastructure, such as reservoirs. Together, we can ensure that the British horticulture industry thrives and puts water efficiency at the heart of what we do.”