“About time” that was the reaction this week of a former Wisbech councillor as Fenland District Council finally responded to his calls for action over Japanese Knotweed.
Exactly three months after a 22-page dossier written by Alan Lay and highlighting the dangers of the invasive plant was handed in at a full council meeting by Councillor Virginia Bucknor, Fenland has finally issued guidelines to residents on how to deal with the problem.
In a press release issued on Monday the council announced it was “raising awareness of Japanese Knotweed to help homeowners identify, control and dispose of Britain’s most invasive plant – and help stop it spreading.”
However, Mr Lay, who has been campaigning to get the council to act for the past two-and-a-half years after the plant was spotted growing at numerous sites in Wisbech, said: “At last, it’s about time. I have written numerous emails to the council about this problem and all I can kept getting back from them was ‘we are dealing with it in the appropriate way.
“That in my opinion was never good enough. People really don’t understand how dangerous this plant can be. It can grow through concrete and brickwork. Cutting it back doesn’t work, this plant can grow back from a clipping the size of your little finger nail. It needs to be treated properly.”
The plant can grow as much as 20cm a day and has a root system that can extend three metres in depth and seven metres in all directions; growing into building foundations and drains, causing serious structural damage.
In the press release the council said: “Where it is found on land and open spaces within the council’s control, the council is taking appropriate action to minimise the risk of spread and eradicate it where appropriate in line with good practice. The council’s grounds maintenance contractor has also been trained in identifying the weed and treating it accordingly.”
But earlier this summer Mr Lay accused contractors of cutting grass close to a clump of Japanese Knotweed on the side of Lynn Road in Wisbech without concern about what happened to the clippings.
“I took a picture of me standing with the knotweed in the background, it was eight feet tall behind me and you could clearly see it had been cut by the mower,” said Mr Lay, who welcomed the council finally taking action.
“It is a bit late in the day, but it is better late than never. People have got to understand just how dangerous this plant can be and the damage it can cause.”
The council pointed out the responsibility for controlling Japanese Knotweed rests with the landowner or occupier of the land, but Mr Lay is worried people do not know exactly how to deal with it.
Council leader, Councillor John Clark, said: “The council does not have the resources in terms of people, nor finance, to be assessing knotweed on land that it is not responsible for. It is important homeowners are aware of the potential damage Japanese Knotweed can cause, and follow guidance from the Environment Agency to help control and manage it.”
Identifying Japanese Knotweed:
• Produces fleshy red tinged shoots when it first breaks through the ground
• Has large, heart or spade-shaped green leaves
• Has leaves arranged in a zig-zag pattern along the stem has a hollow stem, like bamboo
• Can form dense clumps that can be several meters deep
• Produces clusters of cream flowers in late summer
• Dies back between September and November, leaving brown stems.
Getting rid of Japanese Knotweed: Do not try to cut the weed down, mow or strim as this will make it spread. Do not put Japanese Knotweed in your green bin (normal household waste) or brown bin (garden waste), or take it to a recycling centre – it must be disposed of as controlled waste.
For more advice on how to control and dispose of Japanese Knotweed, including chemical spraying and burning, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-japanese-knotweed-from- spreading.