Landscaping is all about improving the aesthetic appearance of an area or facility by changing its contours, adding features, or planting trees and shrubs, but I think there is more to it than that.
In my opinion it should encompass all aspects of the green spaces we live and work in, parks, housing, open spaces and sports facilities. This last area is of particular interest as it is my opinion that we don’t manage and maintain our public sports grounds to get the best from them. Not just for the local authority who own them but more importantly developing the next generation of home grown football and rugby players.
The UK produces some of the world’s best groundsman and greenkeepers who find themselves managing top glass facilities around the world. It is also true that we have some amazing sports venues in this country and the technical support from the likes of the STRI is world class. However we also have thousands of hectares of local authority owned sports pitches for public use which in many cases are no better than maintained fields from which most councils look to generate income from. To get the best from these facilities we need to do more than just cut the grass and occasionally punch holes through the surface, they should be managed as sports surfaces and not just fields with white lines.
With the correct inputs you can create a top quality playing surface in a matter of weeks.
Budget cuts continue to burden our Local Authority’s and I sympathise with their task of making the numbers add up whilst trying to maintain services, but lets think for a minute, rather than continually cutting services why not invest in some of the facilities with a view to generating income. Take the example of football pitches, lack of fertilising, inappropriate reseeding and outdated pitch renovation practices can lead to matches being cancelled due to muddy or waterlogged playing surfaces. If they do get played there can be significant long term damage, as an example not based on science but on observation –
The average Sunday league team playing 10 home games per season on a Local Authority pitch costs £600 per season for the use of one pitch = £60 per game. A total usage at 90 minutes per game of 15 hours per season per pitch. For one pitch the actual usage is probably 100 hours per season = 66 games @ £60 per game = £3,960 x 60 = £237,600 of income to the Authority.
There is the potential with these pitches (if maintained correctly) of 650 hours use per season = 430 games @ £60 per game = £25,800. If the Local Authority has 60 pitches x £25,800 = £1,548,000!
It is easy to juggle figures to show where money could be generated and there is a cost to these to get the pitches to the standard where they will be more intensively used, but currently there seems no appetite from those who manage these facilities to even consider doing something different.
During April and May one of the industry’s leaders in the supply of sports turf equipment and knowhow, Campey Turfcare embarked on the UK wide Pitch Renovation tour, showing just what a difference good practice can make. Supported by seed producers, fertiliser and chemical suppliers and machinery suppliers, the events were enthusiastically attended by sports clubs and groundsman but very few representing the biggest sector managing the grass roots facilities we all grew up with.
Why have these natural playing surfaces if we’re not going to look after them, sometimes the solution to a problem is within our grasp, you just need to think differently, If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.
Initial investment maybe costly but the long term benefits make sense.
Angus Lindsay, Group Head of Asset & Fleet Management