How close is Japanese knotweed getting to my home?

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Two centuries ago, when Victorian engineers were designing the latest in transport technology, Japanese knotweed sounded like a very clever idea.

A plant that typically colonised volcanoes in Japan was imported to Britain to help hide, or possibly even stabilise, railway embankments.

Since then its spread has caused much unhappiness amongst home-owners and prospective house purchasers.

It can crack tarmac, block drains, undermine foundations and invade homes. Its presence can be enough to cut a property’s value by up to 20%, or prevent a mortgage lender approving a loan.

But just as new technology created the problem originally, new technology may help to solve it.

How close is it to me?

Five years ago, the Environment Agency commissioned a new app to track Japanese knotweed, using the crowd-sourcing principle.

More than 20,000 people have now downloaded it, and their data has pin-pointed over 6,000 knotweed locations.

“If we can get more people taking an interest and submitting records, so much the better,” says Dave Kilbey, director of Natural Apptitude, which designed and launched the app.

“Hopefully it will mean people will become a bit more aware of the problems, and what to look for.”

So far the results show a particular concentration of knotweed in South Wales, the Midlands, London, Scotland’s central belt and Cornwall – where the plant was also introduced by Victorians into ornamental gardens.

Those looking for a property can use the app to find out if knotweed has been found nearby – but the fact it is not on the map does not mean it is not present; it is simply that no one has reported it.

What if I find knotweed?

Trying to destroy Japanese knotweed by yourself is virtually impossible.

That is because the roots, or rhizomes, spread rapidly underground, and can regenerate from tiny amounts of material. In fact it can grow at the rate of 10cm a day during the summer.

“Digging it out of the ground can just spread it terribly,” warns Stephen Hodgson, the chief executive of the Property Care Association (PCA).

“If you’ve got it in your garden, either leave it alone, or treat it properly.”

The advice is as follows:

  • Do not try to dig it up: Tiny root fragments can regenerate into another plant
  • If you cut down the branches, dispose of them on-site. Compost separately, preferably on plastic sheets
  • Do not take it to your local council dump. It needs specialist waste management
  • Do not dispose of it in the countryside. This is against the law
  • Do not spread the soil. Earth within seven horizontal meters of a plant can be contaminated
  • Take advice from the Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association (INNSA) or the Property Care Association (PCA) on local removal contractors. Many treatments don’t work

 

In an experiment being conducted in South Wales, thousands of plant lice were released last summer, in the hopes that they would help destroy some of the knotweed along river banks.

But otherwise the accepted best-practice treatment is for professionals to inject the plant with industrial-strength weed killer glyphosate.

David Layland, the joint managing director of Japanese Knotweed Control, based in Stockport, says it is the only thing that works.

“Once we inject into it, it transfers into the root system pretty quickly, and then it binds with the roots. Over time, it rots away into the subsoil.”

But professional treatment is costly, starting at about £2,500, and going upwards to £30,000 for a major infestation.

Court case

Just as big a worry for many home-owners is the discovery that your neighbour has Japanese knotweed on his or her property, and refuses to do anything about it.

But under the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, local councils or police forces can now issue a Community Protection Notice (CPN), forcing neighbours to take action, and fining them if they don’t.

“I think when they are enforced – and they are starting to be enforced – CPNs are very effective,” says Stephen Hodgson.

“But they are, and should be, a measure of last resort.”

In the meantime judges at the Court of Appeal are gearing up to provide an important precedent on who should pay if a landowner allows knotweed to encroach on somebody else’s property.

Next year they will rule on the case of Williams v Network Rail – after two homeowners in South Wales were awarded £15,000 to compensate them for knotweed which had spread into their gardens.


Windows smashed and flowers wrecked by vandals in Mesnes Park

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There are calls for more CCTV cameras to be installed at a Wigan park after a spate of vandalism.

Wigan Central councillor George Davies wants something to be done to protect Mesnes Park. He says there have been several incidents of vandalism in recent years. Last weekend plants were damaged in the rose garden and two windows were smashed at Mesnes Park Lodge. He believes the garden was deliberately targeted by vandals and not simply damaged by Storm Doris. And he says young people have been seen causing damage at the park. Coun Davies said: “We call Mesnes Park ‘the jewel in the crown’ but more vandalism and anti-social behaviour is still happening in the park. “Last year the pavilion’s windows were smashed in, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage, and on many weekends the flowerbeds get ripped up, leaving our Mesnes Park gardeners to clean up the areas.Windows smashed and flowers wrecked by vandals in Mesnes Park Coun George Davies in a vandalised garden at Mesnes Park 10:15Monday 06 March 2017 There are calls for more CCTV cameras to be installed at a Wigan park after a spate of vandalism. Wigan Central councillor George Davies wants something to be done to protect Mesnes Park. We call Mesnes Park ‘the jewel in the crown’ but more vandalism and anti-social behaviour is still happening in the park Coun Davies He says there have been several incidents of vandalism in recent years. Last weekend plants were damaged in the rose garden and two windows were smashed at Mesnes Park Lodge.

He believes the garden was deliberately targeted by vandals and not simply damaged by Storm Doris. And he says young people have been seen causing damage at the park. Coun Davies said: “We call Mesnes Park ‘the jewel in the crown’ but more vandalism and anti-social behaviour is still happening in the park. “Last year the pavilion’s windows were smashed in, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage, and on many weekends the flowerbeds get ripped up, leaving our Mesnes Park gardeners to clean up the areas. “Now the rose garden has had an attack with stems being snapped and two back windows of the Lodge being broken, so I am calling an emergency meeting to get some action for safety and extended cameras to be put in for our workforce and our families who visit our Mesnes Park.” There are already CCTV cameras at Mesnes Park, but Coun Davies would like the coverage to be extended to all areas. It could also help to tackle the anti-social behaviour problems and arson attacks blighting the derelict Pagefield building, which is next to the park. He said: “I want the CCTV cameras to be extended so that everywhere in Mesnes Park can be seen if there is any trouble or any problems.”

Coun Davies is now working to set up a meeting to discuss the problem with Wigan Council, Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, the police, Friends Of Mesnes Park and fellow councillors. It has been pencilled in for Monday, March 20. Coun Davies has already met the Friends Of Mesnes Park to discuss the issue and has the support of chairman Allan Foster, who has been asking for more CCTV cameras in the park to improve safety for some time.

 


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