The annual Amenity Forum conference is well established and seen as a must attend event for those involved in or with an interest in the sector. Its focus is on amenity management. This year's event of course was affected by the consequences of the virus but it went ahead totally on line and was judged a great success. Attendance was extremely good and the speakers were of the highest standard. The internet platform chosen delivered and all ran smoothly, much to the relief of the organisers who in bringing this event together had been on a steep learning curve.
The theme this year was extremely apt, 'Planning for the Future'. The conference began with a presentation from Caroline Nicholls who is leading the term currently reviewing policy in terms of weed, pest and disease management. She highlighted the need for a focus on integrated management approaches and felt there was a need for more data on pesticide useage in amenity. A national survey is to be undertaken in early 2021 and in the questions, Forum Chairman, John Moverley, urged everyone to fully participate in this. She also expressed support for the Amenity Standard and greater enforcement, both issues the Amenity Forum has been promoting. Indeed the Forum wishes to see the Amenity Standard become a requirement.
Caroline was followed by speakers from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Water UK who both offered their responses to proposed policy change and in particular highlighted how their organisations were adapting for the future. There was then three presentations from senior people drawn from the lawn care, landscape and invasive weed control sectors. They too focussed on the challenges currently and their thoughts on the future. In the session immediately before lunch Jim Croxton and Jason Booth from BIGGA and GMA respectively looked at education and training and in particular the need for continuous professional development. They described new ways being developed to provide this in a more accessible and least course way. It was extremely interesting to hear of this and how clearly their organisations are responding to sector needs.
The first item after lunch is now traditionally reserved for a presentation from a researcher and this year Sophie from Swansea University delivered a fascinating paper describing her work in the exploring the life cycle assessment of Japanese Knotweed. She was followed by two further extremely informative presentations. The first was focussed on genetic engineering and the potential it offers. One item that certainly interested delegates was the potential to slow grass growth in the summer and the potential this offered sports turf in managing disease. We were then delighted to welcome Professor Alan Gange who gave his thoughts and findings on biological control - current and future.
The conference was concluded by a great presentation from Keith Kent who has spent a lifetime in groundsmanship and on his recent retirement was Head Groundsman at the RFU. He drew from his extraordinary career and highlighted many factors which will be vital for the future. In his concluding remarks, John Moverley urged the sector to be proud of what it delivers. In the last months, the importance of amenity management has been highlighted in helping keep our public areas safe and healthy, our transport networks running and so much more. The sector is also at the forefront in embracing change and he thanked the sector for getting behind the Amenity Standard and all it stood for. What happens in amenity management impacts upon every UK citizen every day.
John concluded by quoting Einstein who said '''the significant challenges we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that we were at when we created them''. John continued'' Whatever new normal means, it will require a new paradigm as to how we both live and run our lives and our business and economy. I am very confident that the amenity sector will play a full part in this new future'' John also thanked all those member organisations who had supported the conference and indeed made it possible. This year we could not have our exhibition area in the normal way but you have responded to a different approach and I am so grateful for the support you give''