The HTA stands strongly opposed to a suggested levy on non-native plant imports and stressed that a more holistic approach to the urban and rural landscape and environment would better protect our horticultural heritage and biodiversity.
In evidence provided by Martin Emmett on behalf of the HTA, to the Environment Audit Committee on Wednesday 29th January 2014, Emmett was robust in his opposition, stating the likelihood that this would primarily be seen as a tax on gardening and UK production.
There are more than 75,000 garden plant entries in the Royal Horticultural Society Plant Finder, most of which are non-native. The European trade in horticulture is very competitive already and any such levy would simply reduce the competitiveness of the UK industry.
Whilst the importance of conserving natural habitats is widely recognised, it needs to be balanced with the demands of a growing population. A fully integrated landscape approach would encompass, but not be limited to, interests as diverse as food production, conservation, forestry, housing, gardening, urban greening, land use for renewable energy and tourism.
Such a strategy would improve on the current piecemeal approach which often spawns policies in direct conflict with each other. A more integrated approach could also benefit Government activity such as resource management and environmental policy, including flooding.
From the outset the HTA highlighted the vital importance that international trade plays in the horticultural industry when Government Select Committee members questioned the role of international trade in the introduction of invasive species. Without this trade our gardens and biodiversity would be impoverished.
The HTA also made the point to the committee that invasive pests can be brought in through industries other than horticulture and called for a balance to be struck between facilitating trade and protecting the bio-security and landscapes of the UK.
The HTA also stressed that members take the subject of invasive non-natives very seriously and would play a leading and pro-active role with Defra in the Be Plant Wise campaign, helping to produce materials and distribute those materials to the gardening public through our garden centre members.
The HTA has also worked with the National Trust, Defra and others to draw up bio-security guidelines for nurseries and has also pro-actively warned Defra and Government of potential threats such as Ash Dieback.
“With respect to landscape management, there is a tendency for politicians to respond primarily to the arguments from wildlife conservation organisations from wildlife conservation organisations,” states Emmett.
“And we see this happening in the inquiry into invasive non-native species. The conservationists’ concerns are relevant but so are the concerns of the garden sector which plays such an important role in making our populated environments pleasant to live in.”