Independent Garden Expert Witness

What is an Independent Garden Expert Witness?

An Independent Garden Expert Witness is a person with knowledge or experience of all elements of your garden beyond that to be expected of a layperson. These services are employed by individual clients and the courts for matters of dispute.

They will be conversant with the following elements:

  • Regulations – Have the regulations for your project been followed correctly?
  • Materials – Understand landscaping materials and their use?
  • Design – Know if your design is correct and if it has been followed.
  • Structure – Is the build-up correct, is a Structural Engineer involved?
  • Paving – Has this been designed and constructed correctly?
  • Decking – Has this been designed and constructed correctly?
  • Walling – Is this a retaining wall? Is it correct?
  • Lighting – Does this constitute light pollution?
  • Soil – Is the soil correct for the scheme and location?
  • Lawn – has this been installed correctly?
  • Horticulture – Are the plants planted correctly and thriving?
  • Water Management – Does your garden flood?
  • Irrigation – Are your plants watered correctly?
  • Boundaries – Are these are per the Land Registry?
  • Standards – Is your project constructed to a good standard?

Some Expert Witnesses are specialists in certain attributes of your garden, such as Decking, Paving or Horticulture.

The Independent Garden Expert Witness will offer services directly to the client, contractor or though Council and as appointed and directed by the Courts. In all cases, it is Impartial, unbiased and of expert opinion or fact depending upon the instruction.

Your expert witness should provide the following:

All CPR part 35 Reports (Civil Procedure Rules)

Expert statement of Opinion report

Expert statement of Fact report

Distance report

Extant report

Working practice report

The Expert Witness’s role is to give to the Client or Court an impartial opinion on issues in your garden within their expertise that are in dispute.

An Expert Witness is independent.

Your independent garden expert will give a report stating their opinion in their area of expertise on the matter in your garden in accordance with the instructions they are given. These instructions are stated in the Expert Witness’s Report which will be presented to the courts and seen by both sides. The type of report will depend upon the detail within it.

The Court expects an expert witness to be independent and impartial and will discount the evidence of one who is or is seen to be partisan.

An Expert Witness will not be your legal representative or replace your lawyer. Your expert witness will not advocate your case. Your expert will not provide opinions or reports beyond their specific area of expertise.

When do you need an Expert Witness (EW)?

You may need to employ the services of an independent expert witness when there is a dispute between the client and the contractor.

An example of such dispute is:

A project of £20k for a decking and paved terrace with surrounding planting and new lawn.

The client has refused to pay the contractor the final payment of £5000 because they believe that the paving has not been laid correctly and the decking moves when you walk on it.

The case goes to court and the judge requests an Expert witness with expert garden landscaping knowledge.

The EW is instructed by the court to attend the garden and write a CPR part 35 compliant report.

Expert Garden Witness Example 

In this case, it was found that in the patio there were several loose paving slabs and the mortar had washed out from between the paving units. The gaps between the paving units were not consistent and varied from touching to 20mm wide. The paving was not at a fall ratio and so standing water was observed.  In brief, it was a poor standard of works and below anyone’s expectations of a new patio. The materials were fit for purpose and not to blame for this work.

The decking was not supported correctly with support posts at incorrect intervals and not set into concrete. There were no beams as such and the joists at random intervals were nailed together. The screws were incorrect for the thickness of decking and not suitable for exterior use. The gaps between the decking boards were not equal and not all board ends were supported by a joist. No regulations were followed nor reported as part of the specification. The decking was found to be dangerous and unfit for any purpose.

The report was indexed and had many photos detailing the project. It contained over 3500 words. (Whilst hypothetical, this report is typical of many cases put before the courts)

The judge ruled in favour of the client and awarded accordingly with costs.

How to choose your Garden Expert Witness

You should instruct your Expert based on their experience and ability to write an impartial report that explains the detail of your complaint.

The following are Members of the Professional Garden Consultants Association. They are experts in their own right and offer Expert Witness reporting for matters concerning the landscaping in your garden. 

Areas covered – UK Wide, Buckinghamshire, Home Counties and London. 

Karl Harrison MPGCA MIET MAPL

Garden Industry expert since 2003, all matters concerning Gardens, Design and Landscaping with a specialism for timber and composite structures to include Decking

Alan Sargent FCIHort MPGCA

Garden Industry leading expert since 1968, all matters concerning Gardens, Design and Landscaping.

Mark Youde MPGCA MCIHort

Specialist in Hard Landscaping Construction techniques and specification Landscape Project Management ranging from domestic gardens to estates Technical Advisor & Apprentice Trainer to the APL.

Gareth Wilson MPGCA MCIHort IMI

Construction and project manager for over thirty RHS Show Gardens including Ten Gold Medals.

Lynne Taylor BSC ACIHort MPGCA

Specialist in Hard Landscaping Construction techniques and specification Landscape Project Management ranging from domestic gardens to estates Assessor to the Association of Professional Landscapers.

James Firth MPGCA MA MSC FCIHort FRGS

Specialist Consultant in Constructional Methodology and Soil Structure. Lecturer – Advanced Design Construction – Capel Manor, Cirencester and Southwark Colleges.

James Steele-Sargent MPGCA MCIHort

Has constructed 62 Royal Horticultural Society award-winning Show Gardens. Founder member of Association of Professional Landscapers.