There is too much of a conflict between the HTAs commercial interests and that of the environmental interests of landscape industry practitioners.
How on earth can the landscape industry accept that an organisation - formed in 1899 - can continue to represent professionals in today's modern world, doing their utmost to create bee and insect friendly environments, when the HTA dogmatically refuses to accept that neonicotinoid pesticides are one of the likeliest causes of bee deaths around the world?
During the course of my work I see examples of planting and landscaping projects that have specifically been designed to attract bees and insects.
In the last five years (maybe as much as a decade) there's been a huge movement to consider the environment over aesthetics in the nation's gardens: the conservation and promotion of bees has been one of our industry's utmost priorities.
The HTA are advising their clients that neonicotinoid pesticides are still safe to use:
We encourage the use of non-pesticide solutions but sometimes the use of pesticides, including those containing imidacloprid and thiamethoxam (no retail products contain clothianidin), are important tools within an integrated pest management approach.
These garden care products have undergone extensive testing through the extremely rigorous UK pesticide registration process and we are satisfied that they comply with appropriate standards for environmental impact.
A mountain of evidence tells us differently but the HTA are, I believe, arguing for the continued use of neonicotinoid pesticides based only on a technicality: that is that they are approved for use in the UK at this moment in time, whilst ignoring growing evidence from experts that neonicotinoids are in fact harmful.
Many groups are pushing for a total ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK. Neonicotinoid pesticides are already banned or suspended in France, Germany and Italy
If the HTA truly cared about the landscape industry and put the profits of manufacturers second it should at least support a temporary ban until we can establish once and for all the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees.
It appears there is a huge conflict of interest between what the HTA wants, in terms of commercial success for its members and what, I am certain, is environmental success for landscaping and gardening practitioners.
APL cannot survive on its own
Ironically the HTA are holding an Ethical & Sustainable Landscaping seminar tomorrow.
The event has been promoted through the Association of Professional Landscapers APL as a must attend event.
The HTA blurb says that attendees will hear experts explain how a well-designed living green roof or flower meadow can help support wildlife.
But if the HTA don't move to support a ban on the use of dangerous pesticides then we won't have insects and wildlife to make green roofs and wild flower meadows for.
There seems a massive conflict between what the landscape industry is trying to achieve and the HTAs stance on the use and promotion of commercial pesticide use.
The APL appear to have become the HTAs property, a whipping boy to do with what it sees fit.
In a recent LinkedIn promotion of tomorrow's Ethical & Sustainable Landscaping seminar, one APL member wrote: "I desperately want to be enthused by the APL seminars this year but "Ethical & Sustainable" seem to be at the back of mind at in these tough economic times. Topics that promote business might get my vote far more readily"
The HTA responded: "we cannot lose site of new initiatives and techniques and things that are important to sustaining the future of the industry. So the Seminars look at these areas and hopefully provide solid imformation [sic] and inspiration"
The final response by the APL members: "OK, "Ethical & Sustainable" it is. My message, is focus on what really matters to the average Landscaper. That is securing work in these difficult times. Ethical policies, (a bit like Health & Safety), are supported by most I'm sure, but earning a crust is sometimes the best way to focus these seminars.
"I'm sure they're dreamt up by people in secure, full time employment who have little knowledge of what running a small business entails. Maybe I'm wrong, (wouldn't be the first time), but my main message is devote 2013 to business promotion, not the issues at the periphery of business."
This head to head leads me to one startling conclusion. It is the HTA and not the APLs members who are deciding the APL internal policy going forward.
What is more the HTA have an ever growing hold over the APL as an organisation. With only 233 active landscaping practitioners the organisation is small and has failed to grow to of any significance over the 18 years since it was formed.
So why then do the HTA spend so much time and effort, not to mention expenditure, providing full-time HTA staff to run every aspect of the APLs business?
We know that the APL are broke and cannot stand on their own two feet. Without the HTA money there would be no APL. But why is there not a paid-for CEO at the APL with a Chinese wall, ring-fencing the APL from the HTA operations?
Call me a cynic but it is easy to form the conclusion that the APL are an easy route to market for the HTAs political aspirations. And without a firm independent and freely financed infrastructure the APL is powerless to resist. But it should be independent and give a voice to its own members first and foremost.
The majority are free to act
Luckily the vast majority of landscape industry practitioners are free to make their own decisions and I would hope that each and every one of them will consider making a stance and helping to rid the world of harmful chemicals.