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Amenity Forum Annual Conference: The Amenity Forum Gets Moving

Thursday 13th October saw the Annual Conference of the Amenity Forum take place at Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium. ALS are active members of the Amenity Forum and the ALS Sales Manager, Vicki Hughes, went along to investigate the theme for this year's conference; Important and Essential.

As always it was a packed agenda, this year particularly, the Amenity Forum have captured the mood of the industry in an uncertain political arena. The focus was very clearly on responding to change and ensuring that the message of the important and essential work that the Amenity Sector does as a whole starts to filter out into the wider consciousness and counteract some of the negative press associated with pesticides. The other clear theme running through the conference is the need for the industry to adopt an integrated approach with pesticides forming one strand of grounds and landscape management.

Amenity Forum - PresentationThe Conference started with some scene setting from the Chairman John Moverly and the annual regulatory update from Grant Stark of the newly renamed HSE's Chemicals Regulation Division. He spoke about the challenges faced by the industry as we head towards Brexit, and was very clear that in terms of regulation, it is business as usual with all the normal rules applied until we hear otherwise. He then went on to discuss the position of a number of products. Glyphosate has been a hot topic of late with the EU's failure to commit to a full re-approval pending more scientific research into potential health risks. This week also saw the announcement of the upcoming withdrawal of Carbendazim, this will lose all approval from 31st August 2017.

John Moverley announced the Amenity Forum's Get Moving campaign. Work has been ongoing to produce a campaign which increases the awareness of the important and essential work done in the Amenity Sector to a wider audience. Whilst some of these clips and journeys look very simplified to the eyes of the industry they provide a friendly, accessible platform which allows our industry to engage more and convey the message that the Amenity Sector "keeps Britain moving".

In addition to the videos, there are a range of leaflets aimed at those employed in the sector, stakeholders and the general public.

The broad range of subjects continued with presentations from BIGGA and the IOG on increased training in the industry and the importance of quality playing services, with Jim Croxton of BIGGA citing dissatisfaction with the playing surface as the main reason a golf club member will not renew their membership.

The next 3 speakers highlighted the importance of weed, pest and disease control in 3 different areas of the sector; Invasives, Property Management and Lawncare. It is encouraging to hear that there is increasing research in this area of the industry with a recent research project on the efficacy of a range of control measures against Japanese Knotweed currently pending publication. An interesting point to note is the expansion of Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act; to include a wider range of species and the change in regulation which means that landowners must now control scheduled invasive species on their property and not just prevent its spread. Steve Hodgson of the Property Care Association discussed the work of the PCA in providing a guidance framework for homeowners, surveyors and lenders regarding invasive weeds. The Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association (INNSA) also announced the launch of the Invasives Code, this is to provide guidelines and quality standards for the Invasive industry to work within, all INNSA members and any wishing to become members must sign up to the code. Gordon Duncan of GreenThumb discussed the challenges faced when working with pesticides and the homeowner, there has been real growth in the lawncare sector whilst the number of products available have dwindled and diminished so this provides a real challenge for those employed in the sector to produce great results whilst managing customer's expectations, a point I am sure many of you involved in that side of the industry can identify with!

Amenity Forum - AwardsThe Sprayer Operator of the Year Awards were announced, this year the award was split into 3 sectors, boom sprayer operator (sports turf), hand held (amenity) and hand held (hard surface), there was a winner and runner up in each sector. Congratulations to all the winners from all of us at ALS!

On the subject of sprayer operation, a reminder was issued that by November 26th if you have a boom sprayer that is more than 5 years old it must have been tested by an NSTS Accredited Test Centre, it must then be retested within 5 years by 2020 and then the interval falls to 3 years after 2020. There is no requirement for hand held and pedestrian sprayers to have such certification but inspection records must be kept showing that they are regularly calibrated and maintained.

The day continued with a captivating talk from Alan Ferguson, FA Head of Grounds. It was fascinating to see the innovations and challenges faced at Wembley Stadium and, certainly for me, one of the highlights of the day.

The Conference concluded with a series of presentations and Q&A session on how to achieve an integrated approach to weed, pest and disease control with presentations giving the case for non-chemical control and also the place for pesticides. As with most things, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle as there are pro's and con's for each.

To round up, the conference addressed most areas of the industry with sports turf, lawncare, invasives and Landscapers all well catered for. The theme of 'Important and Essential' was well conveyed with the launch of the Get Moving campaign and as the industry forward in an uncertain political environment it is key for the industry to remember we are under increasing scrutiny not only for what we do but how we do it. With an ever contracting portfolio of available plant protection products and an increased public interest in what we do we must work together as an industry to maintain and improve standards through adoption of best practice, training and an integrated approach.

The day was one of the most interesting and relevant forum events I have attended and I would recommend that anyone involved in the industry makes themselves fully familiar with the work of the forum, their website www.amenityforum.co.uk gives a range of guidance on best practice to stay safe and legal when using plant protection products.