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School field mowing - Manchester


Myself and a colleague have been asked to tender for maintenence contracts for 2 primary schools that are part of a trust partnership. I'm fine costing up everything else as I've been doing garden and small scale grounds maintenance for 8/9 years however neihther of us has any experience of large scale utility mowing. It's likely we will sub-contract this out, but we need to get the quote in by the 29th so don't really have time to find anyone. Can anyone give me some advice on how to price this up? The sizes of the fields are approximately 7405 m2 and 7479 m2. We are based in South Manchester. Cheers.

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  • This really comes down to what machinery you have. If using a tractor and gang mowers, or a Ramsomes 2250 or 3300 with three Magna cylinders, then you can afford to be more competitive as you will be much faster.

    I do a number of playing fields, some of which I sub-contract out to someone with gang mowers. I do have ride on mowers myself which I did use on these playing fields, but the subcontractor with the bigger gear is cheaper than me [about half of what I charge] which is what you are obviously aiming for.

    Ideally you should get the sub-contractor to give you a price first. If you don’t have one in place the problem then is the possibility of not finding  a suitable sub-contractor in time and therefore then having to do the work yourself.

    Quite a few of these bodies with playing fields publish accounts online. You can sometimes read between the lines a little and see what the prices are.

    The other issue with playing fields is that quite often the District Council, or more usually with Schools the County Council, will be the incumbent contractor. The District/County Council will often mow a playing field for a ridiculously low price. I know for a fact that, within the last two years, my local D.C. were mowing a 4.5 acre playing field for £47 and a 3 acre playing field for £33. So they are sending out a newish tractor and gang mowers, paying for the fuel, insurance, servicing and the man’s wages, yet charging so little. They are of course subsidised by the Council Tax. You should find out who you are competing with, because if it is the D.C. then there’s no point. Although sometimes the County Councils Education dept. will charge a much higher price. I have mowed a smaller School playing field for about ten years now which had previously been done the County Councils education dept., because they were so bad at mowing, or even turning up.

    Get someone to put in a freedom of information request for last year’s tenders/quotes.

    Both of your playing fields are about 1.8 acres. I would say that if they are completely open spaces with very few or no obstacles, like playing equipment etc., then a price of anywhere between £35 and £70 per acre would be about right, if you want to get the work. But you would be surprised how cheap that the other tendering Contractors are with such work.

    There is pretty much always more money in the intermediate sized work. So for example, I mow an open area with no obstacles at all that is much less than a quarter of an acre or 860m2. The fee is £90. This is not untypical of my work. Cemeteries and Churchyards are often more than an acre, but much different rates apply here. There is much more money in this kind of work than there is in mowing playing fields.

    So by all means take it on, but just be aware of the issues you’re up against.

  • PRO

    I would look at it as 2 acres - its an easy hours work with a 4 foot zero turn - allowing for loading and unloading.  My price would be towards the top end of Vic's £35 to £70 for the job..  It would depend on ease of access for a hilux and trailer, timing of cut - ie only on a Saturday or evening etc and if the area was flat and well drained.  Little banks and cut outs would add a bit,  

  • Thats for your replies, they are really useful. Am trying to juggle sorting this quote whilst looking after my 5 month old baby - not easy!

    It's likely that the tender won't come down to just figures as we have been working on some aspects of horticultural maintenance for about 8 years within the school with other bigger companies taking on the large landscaping roles. The school partnership have realised that they want to steamline everything to simplify and reduce overall costs so have asked us to go for the tender as I think they are keen for us to do this.

    So - on another note - how do we find someone to subcontract this mowing work to? I've not had much luck with Google, but perhaps not entering the correct terms. Cheers folks

  • Firstly, just another point about prices. As I said, I use sub-contractors who mow three Council playing fields for me. They do a large amount of School playing fields, in fact it is their main activity.

    So across the three sites they do for me there is a bank to strim and all sites have play equipment. There is on two sites some internal fencing, trees and other obstacles to strim around. In total there are 6.6 acres to mow. They charge me £130 in total. They are very good and efficient and produce a very nice finish.

    So this is what you are up against. Some of these guys charge relatively very little for their services, because they have the gang mowers and are very fast over the ground, so they can afford to be very competitive.

    So if you are tendering directly against someone like this then it is impossible to compete on price.

    This is where the relatively smaller and intermediate work [about an acre or less] comes into its own. There is often no access for gang mowers and has a more intricate layout, as with cemeteries. The very nature of it makes it much, much more profitable.

    As regards finding a sub-contractor, mine was someone that the very long standing friend who works for me part-time has known for many years and could recommend.

    I think if I needed to find a sub-contractor I would call round the local schools and find out if they use a contractor, as opposed to their own employees which some Academies do, and ask for your contact details to be passed on to them. Alternatively, ask the local machinery dealer you trade with if they know of anyone. Chances are that they will know several. Don’t Google for one, get a word of mouth recommendation.

    The other option is to do the mowing yourself, which is always the preferred method in most cases.

    • Aha, great idea, I'll call the local mower repair place.

      Yeah - I figured that once someone was set up with the gear and good at their job, there would be no need for them to advertise as word of mouth would send them plenty of jobs. We've toyed with the idea of mowing ourselves but don't currently have the kit or training, might look into it in future though. Unfortunately we only got a few weeks to sort out the tender and we both have babies under 6 months so it's a bit of a tricky time to be thinking of this sort of thing but if we get it, the job will really set me up for work for the next 3 years.

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