A former Wisbech councillor is calling for action to raise awareness of the growing problem of Japanese knotweed across the district which he fears could become a major issue in years to come.
Alan Lay, a retired landscape gardener, has spotted some of the troublesome plant growing along the boundary fence of an open space close at the back of Prince of Wales Close.
“It really is nasty stuff, it takes no prisoners, once it takes hold it is really difficult and expensive to get rid of,” said Mr Lay.
He said Japanese knotweed has been known to grow through concrete posts it is such strong stuff and he has even seen it growing on both sides of a road with the plant tunneling under the roadway to shoot up on the other side.
“I really don’t think people realise how dangerous it can be. I have been in a house where it had grown up through the floor and was coming out of the walls through the plaster and caused all kinds of damage.
“It can take at least three years of constant treatment with chemicals and cutting back to get rid of it, but if you miss a bit just the size of a finger nail it will grow up again.
“I know there was Japanese knotweed on a site where some new houses have been built in Wisbech and I worry that the builders just cut it down and didn’t realise what it was so it is lurking under the houses ready to start growing through. It can cause terrible damage to properties especially the foundations,” said Mr Lay, who said he constantly raised the issue with all the levels of local government when he was a serving councillor.
“I really don’t think they took me too seriously, and I have even been told in some cases it is not the council’s problem because the plant is on private land. But people need to know what they are dealing with and the council should be raising awareness so people know what they are looking for.
“It is quite an attractive plant, it is flowering at the moment. It was introduced to this country as a hot house plant but then it started to be planted out in gardens and it has spread from there. It is a cousin of our plant called ‘Mile-a-minute’ if people know what I mean, that is bad enough to get rid of, but Japanese knotweed is far worse,” he added.
Mr Lay wants action on the areas where the plant is spotted to make sure it doesn’t spread any further and believes people need educating so they know what it looks like so they can deal with it before it gets too much of a hold in their gardens and other green areas like allotments and cemeteries.
“I saw it in a cemetery down in Bow in London and it had completely decimated the headstones and tombs, it had taken over and it was practically impossible to get rid of because it was all over the cemetery - I would hate to see anything like that happen here,” he concluded.