A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Melcourt's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Melcourt is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Managing Director AndyChalmers
Melcourt SylvaGrow
Melcourt Industries are the UK’s leading manufacturer of
peat-free, sustainable products for use in commercial
horticulture, landscaping, gardening and other
applications. Indeed, they were one of the first companies to
be involved in the production of peat-free growing media.
Their products are made from renewable and sustainable
forest by-products and make it possible for growers, gardeners
and landscapers to eliminate the use of peat-based products
(a medium for horticulture), which are now recognised as
unsustainable and environmentally harmful. Their focus is, and
always has been, on product efficacy, consistency of quality and
high standards of customer care. By developing and investing
in their product, they have seen a doubling of their sales in less
than a decade. Managing Director Andy Chalmers offers further
insight into their sector and its history.
Pioneering from the start
For all of the sectors we operate in, we have led the way in developing quality
standards, enabling us to produce ranges that cover all budgets supported by
knowledgeable technical back-up. As our reputation and success have grown, we
have invested and diversified, and the market sectors supplied have increased in
number. While the range of raw materials used has also broadened, forest by-
products remain the core of our output.
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1983
»Based near Tetbury,
»No. of employees: 14
»Services: Supplier to
landscape, garden,
horticultural, play safety
surfacing and biofiltration
Melcourt Industries
During the late 1980s, we began
supplying bark-based materials as
growing medium ingredients for
professional horticultural markets,
principally growers of ornamentals
such as trees, shrubs and herbaceous
perennials. Coinciding with the
emerging debate about the use
of peat (the harvesting of which
causes significant damage to unique
habitats), our success encouraged
us to develop a range of peat-
free growing media. Today, our
“Sylvamix” range is market-leading
and is used by nurseries throughout
the UK. We used this reputation
gained in the professional market
to enter the retail growing media
market in 2014 and have seen four-
fold growth here since 2015. Once
again, attention to detail, rigorous
R&D and not compromising on
quality has paid off. Our retail range
is uniquely endorsed by the Royal
Commitment to
environmental sustainability
The controversy surrounding peat
harvesting is complex. Loss of habitat
and biodiversity have been joined by
carbon storage and flood alleviation
as factors which have led Defra to
support the phasing out of peat by
UK horticulture. We have been very
active on the task force set up by
Defra to investigate barriers to peat
reduction. Its principal outcome has
been the “Responsible Sourcing
Scheme for Growing Media”. Once in
use, the scheme will offer buyers and
consumers much greater transparency
than currently exists about the
environmental and social impacts of
the products they are buying.
At Melcourt, we believe that this will
further encourage the market for
peat-free products to proliferate, but
we would nevertheless like to see
more encouragement from Defra.
One of a series of government peat-
reduction targets that required all local
authority and government contracts
to be peat-free by 2015 came and
went without any real promotion to
those organisations. It was a missed
opportunity. More support will be
required for current targets to be
achieved, namely zero peat in garden
centres by 2020 and zero peat used
by professional growers by 2030
(targets which are now enshrined in
the government’s 25-year plan for
One barrier to further peat reduction
is that of price. Alternatives to peat
are generally more expensive and, in
the case of forest-derived ingredients
such as bark, lack of availability can
drive prices up. It has long been the
case that government commercial
forestry planting targets have been
missed and, apart from the impact
this has on UK timber imports, there is
an impact on our raw material stream.
At a time when the competing
interests of the biofuels market
are also having a marked effect,
we believe that a government-led
focus on achieving planting targets
isessential. Melcourt Sylvamix
professional peat-free
growing medium
In all of the
sectors we
operate in, we
have led the
way in
Highlighting best practice
A reputation for excellence
Ornamental horticulture is a relatively
small industry in the UK (albeit one
that delivers exceptional public value,
recently estimated at £24 billion), and
reputation is an important marketing
tool. Customer feedback indicates
that our constant presence year in and
year out plays an important part, as do
»constant visibility in the market;
»an authoritative voice at conferences
and trade events;
»an active presence in trade
associations; and
»a faithful adherence to our belief
that the customer always comes first.
Our staff are of course the backbone
behind everything we do. Committed
and long-serving, they are hugely
important to our success.
We attend the principal industry trade
shows every year, produce a biannual
newsletter for our grower customers,
deal promptly and efficiently with
customer enquiries, and – most
importantly – provide well-researched
and proven products made to a
consistent specification, every time.
We are Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC) certified, confirming that the
materials we use come from sustainably
managed forests. Additionally, all
eligible products in our growers’ range
are certified by the Soil Association,
who operate to the highest level of
organic integrity in the UK. We also
hold a Royal Warrant for the supply
of organic peat-free growing media
to the Prince of Wales – itself a terrific
endorsement of everything we aspire
to achieve as a company in terms of
customer service, product quality and
Melcourt is also unique in having
been awarded an unprecedented
seven consecutive best buys for retail
growing media by the Consumers’
Association. We believe that we have
led the way with the new generation
of growing media in the UK and have
demonstrated that it is possible to
produce crops and gardens of equal
quality to those achieved with peat
– something that for many years was
thought to be unattainable.
Melcourt is far from being the biggest
supplier in many of the markets it
serves. Nevertheless, by paying attention
to detail and having sound, well-
researched products and great customer
service, we can compete successfully,
have a loyal customer base and invest
for the future withconfidence.
Future plans include an expansion
of our concrete pallet storage area,
which will increase our stock-holding
capacity and allow us to respond
to sales without delay. We are also
further investing in our growing media
sector with a significant upgrade to
the compost mixing line. This will
more than quadruple the rate of
manufacture. Furthermore, seasonality
is a welcome challenge in our business,
with the spring bringing with it a
huge surge in orders. Our expansion
into new areas such as decorative
aggregates will undoubtedly help to
spread the season with all the benefits,
including cash flow, that this enables.
We are Forest
Council (FSC)
that the forest
materials we
use come from
Forest byproducts are
Melcourt’s core raw

This article was sponsored by Melcourt. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister