Bracing for Brexit - and its impact on landscape architects
Britain is on a countdown to March 29, and a highly contentious Brexit deadline. And it’s fair to say no-one is really sure what’s going to happen. But the country’s professional body for landscape architects, the Landscape Institute, is certain that a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous” for the profession in the United Kingdom and Europe, exacerbating current skills shortages.
“With 40 percent of employers in our sector already suffering skills shortages, the impact on future talent is our major concern,” says LI chief executive, Dan Cook. “Around eight percent of our members are citizens of EU countries other than the UK, and the profession cannot afford to lose them.”
Cook says one of LI’s major concerns is the EU might not recognise Britain’s professional qualifications for landscape architects. This would hamper UK landscape architects’ ability to provide services to European markets.
Longer term, graduate retention would also be a significant problem. “Thirty percent of students joining UK-based landscape courses in 2018 were international, and seven percent were from the EU,” Cook said. “Restrictions on visas and free movement limits the number of graduates who will be able to stay in the UK, meet skills shortages, and add value to our country.”
He believes any restrictions on trade with Europe would make landscape practice much harder because many of the materials landscape professionals in Britain use - such as live plants or stone products - are sourced from the EU.
“Just like food, plants can’t afford to be held up in a lorry park in Kent, France or Belgium for days. It would take many years for British nurseries to grow similar trees, and for British quarries to be re-opened, in order to rebuild an adequate materials supply chain.
“Any extra administrative burdens for the supply of landscape products into the UK will make them much less attractive to both public and private sector investors and developers.”
But beyond anything else, Cook says, any economic contraction or delays to investment will hit the sector hard. Less money in the economy means less built development, including housing, which is a current Government priority. And what development does happen, he says, will be cheaper, less well designed, and less green.
“If landscape professionals are forced out of work by an economic downturn, the long-term effects on public health, air quality, flood risk, and climate change could take decades to correct.”
The institute says it’s already launched several initiatives to address the professions skills shortages, including a major talent survey in 2017 to better understand the sector’s needs. It also supports a landscape employers’ group creating new landscape apprenticeships and is lobbying the country’s Migration Advisory Committee to list landscape on the Shortage Occupation List. The institute has begun work on updating entry standards for the profession, and is encouraging universities to expand further landscape education and accredit more courses.