The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) welcomed a cross-party group of parliamentarians at a breakfast briefing held on Thursday at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Among the attendees were Shadow Business Minister Seema Malhotra MP and Heather Wheeler MP.
The briefing discussion covered a range of pressing topics, including the immense value and pivotal role of the horticultural sector, the transition from peat, and the need to champion the importance of green spaces within the UK government and policy-making circles.
The HTA was keen to highlight that by “generating employment opportunities, fostering health and wellbeing, actively enhancing the environment, and driving sustainability goals”, the horticultural sector serves as a driving force for positive change.
“With 674,000 jobs supported, contributing £28.8 billion to the UK economy, and generating tax revenues of £6.3 billion, the horticultural sector is an indispensable pillar of the nation’s prosperity,” the HTA added. “Furthermore, the industry plays a pivotal role in realising the UK’s 25-year Environment Plan, providing natural cooling, insulation, flood control, improved air quality, and energy cost savings of approximately £250 million in urban areas through the presence of plants and trees. Protecting and nurturing this sector is essential for the benefit of all.”
One of the issues on the agenda was the transition to peat-free. The HTA explained that the sector is at a historic low for horticultural use of peat and is making significant progress to a 2030 peat-free transition. However, the HTA expressed concern regarding Defra’s recent announcement to bring forward the deadline to 2026, a decision that “poses challenges rather than providing the necessary support”.
“This accelerated timeline does not allow adequate time and resources to develop and implement sustainable practices required for long-term success,” said the HTA. “Such a premature deadline risks reducing the nation’s capacity to produce plants and trees, leading to potential business failures, a diminished choice for British gardeners, a loss of biodiversity for pollinators and wildlife, and the potential degradation of our cherished green spaces. The repercussions could fundamentally alter the essence of the iconic Chelsea Flower Show in the years to come.”
Jennifer Pheasey, director of public affairs at the HTA, added, “The support and awareness of our sector in Westminster is vital – we have members in almost every UK parliamentary constituency, 30 million gardeners and want to see green space grow and be invested in. Collaboration and support from all parties is vital to enable the sector to navigate the challenges, such as a successful transition from peat-use, and to ensure a sustainable and thriving future for horticulture.”