HTA reviews political manifestos to assess opportunities for horticulture

The Horticultural Trades Association has reflected on the political party manifestos released this week, focusing on key themes relevant to environmental horticulture.

Big Ben up close

While the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has identified several opportunities for our sector, some areas require more advocacy for recognition and support. The HTA urges its members to keep environmental horticulture high on the political agenda when engaging with prospective parliamentary candidates and welcoming future MPs in July.

Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the HTA, shared the following insights:

“Although there are no specific commitments to horticulture strategies in the main parties’ manifestos, they do recognise the value of green spaces. Initiatives such as increasing tree planting, woodland creation, urban greening, and improving access to green spaces are emphasised. With ongoing house building, there’s an opportunity for our sector to design, deliver, and maintain the accompanying gardens and green spaces, potentially leading to more gardeners and boosting the industry. We hope this will be considered in new planning to help mitigate climate change.

“One of the sector’s key challenges is trade and plant health agreements. While the manifestos acknowledge this, most fail to emphasise the importance of a specific plant health agreement or SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) agreement with the EU, which is a crucial ask in our Environmental Horticulture Manifesto. This issue significantly impacts our members and our ability to trade with the EU. We will continue engaging with Westminster to highlight the need for government support for a thriving Environmental Horticulture sector.

“All parties recognise the private sector’s role and the importance of SMEs, the sector’s lifeblood. They must support SMEs facing increased cost pressures and challenges like access to labour. References to the need for greater access to procurement opportunities for SMEs is a welcome inclusion, as is reforming the apprenticeship levy and business rates, which we have repeatedly requested.

“Whilst we welcome some of the commitments that will help support our sector, these manifestos also highlight the urgent need for our members to invite prospective candidates and subsequent MPs to their sites to help them understand the importance of environmental horticulture to the UK environment and economy. The future government must recognise environmental horticulture’s value as a policy solution and priority, taking up the House of Lords Horticulture Committee Inquiry’s recommendations, ensuring proportionate regulation for SMEs, and addressing border trade concerns to allow tree and plant growers to import vital plant products without existing uncertainties and burdens. Our sector has significant growth potential, contributing to a stronger economy, diverse flora production to mitigate climate change, flooding, and air pollution, greening urban areas, increasing mental and physical health benefits, and offering exciting apprenticeship opportunities.

“Our Environmental Horticulture Manifesto outlines ten key priorities for a future UK Government, underscoring the significance of green spaces, plant health, and sustainable practices. With the right support and policies, the UK horticultural sector can become a global leader in sustainable practices and deliver green growth, ensuring future generations benefit from the original green industry.”

The HTA’s full member briefing on manifestos can be found here.