Prospective impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review
The announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) last Wednesday brought no huge surprises as to where the cuts would fall, but their implications are no less daunting. The CSR will usher in a very different world, one where the old assumptions no longer hold true, but it is not all doom and gloom.
Severe cuts in to the Communities and Local Government Department – 27 per cent funding cuts and a reduction of 74 per cent in capital expenditure by 2015 – means that local authorities will have a lot less money at their disposal. It is inevitable that it will be more difficult to commission work for public spaces, upon which a lot of landscape architects rely.
Such cuts may, however, be mitigated to some extent by the introduction of Tax Increment Financing, whereby local authorities can borrow against future revenues. Many have argued for the introduction of this model – already widely used in the US – for some time. But, like any new financing mechanism, there will likely be a hiatus before it is fully functional.
The presence of landscape architects in planning departments has long been key to the procurement process for landscape practices. The huge cuts now faced by planning departments could therefore mean the loss of landscape expertise and landscape champions on the client side. Outside of the profession, people often have a narrow view of landscape architecture and the LI will be doing a lot of work over the next year to showcase the full range of work that landscape architects can do, starting with forthcoming publications the ‘Economics of Landscape’ and ‘Good Client Guide’.
While CABE has not been formally abolished, much of its funding has been withdrawn, raising grave questions as to its future. It has been suggested that it could continue on a client-funded basis, though in a slimmed down form. The concern is that, should this happen, CABE’s remit will contract back to dealing only with design advice for buildings, and that public spaces will fall by the wayside. The LI will therefore be consulting closely with CABE and bodies, such as the RIBA, on how to ensure design guidance and expertise on public spaces continues to be accessible.
The LI’s collaboration with Defra this year to launch the UK’s first ever Landscape Award has been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the work of UK landscape architects and, furthermore, promote them in Europe. The department faces cuts of 29 per cent and a 34 per cent reduction in capital expenditure, puts into question whether or not this opportunity will come around again in the next two years.
National Infrastructure Plan
The government’s £200bn National Infrastructure Plan, launched on Monday, offers some clues as to where landscape architects should be looking for future work over the next 20 years. While it may prove difficult to get funding for housing and schools, major investment is planned in power, railways, flood attenuation and drainage, and sustainability. The LI’s work with the previous government on the importance of GI appears not have been wasted. While GI is not mentioned directly, its hallmarks are there in the plan’s mention of the need to “protect natural capital”.
The Plan, which, rather unusually for a governement document, runs to a succinct 20 pages, can be found on the Treasury website
The Browne Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance outlines the direction that policy is likely to take with regards future funding for universities. As it stands, fees look likely to increase.
This could see universities trimming back on courses that aren’t commercially viable, or those that are complicated and time consuming to teach. It is a possibility that landscape architecture will fall under this bracket. However, if students are required to pay more for their education, there may also be a shift towards courses that have a clear professional outcome and career path, and, as landscape architecture ticks these boxes, it could in fact see an increase in uptake.