A former Wisbech councillor is declaring victory after Fenland District Council announced it was finally taking action to eradicate Britain’s most destructive plant which has invaded sites across the area.
Alan Lay, with the support of the Fenland Citizen, last year highlighted the issue of Japanese knotweed in the district with the former landscape gardener warning the council was facing a ticking time bomb if it didn’t act to rid Fenland of the almost indestructible weed.
In fact Mr Lay and his wife Brenda have spent the last three years trying to get Fenland District Council to acknowledge the problem bombarding senior officers, including chief executive Paul Medd with emails, letters and images of the plant growing on council-owned land.
This week the council announced it has appointed specialist contractors to tackle Japanese knotweed.
A spokesman for the council said Invasive Vegetation Management (IVM) Ltd has begun a two-year treatment programme toremove Japanese Knotweed from five council-owned sites in Wisbech and Whittlesey.
Mr Lay, who produced a dossier on the problem which was presented to the council by Coun Virginia Bucknor in September, said: “I have been telling them for years how dangerous this plant can be. It can grow through concrete, it can cause terrible damage to roads and buildings. Finally they appear to have listened and are taking action. It has been a long fight.”
The council is urging residents to remain vigilant to the fast-growing weed, described by the Environment Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”, as it awakens from its winter hibernation.
The recent cold snap has delayed its growing season, but as the warmer spring weather arrives homeowners should look out for red or purple asparagus-like shoots beginning to emerge from the ground. The shoots quickly turn into green bamboo-like stems and grow rapidly – reaching up to three metres by June.
Responsibility for controlling Japanese Knotweed rests with the landowner or occupier of the land and in the last few months the council has been identifying where it exists on its land.
Now IVM has begun treating it at five sites – Petts Close, Prince of Wales Close, West Street Car Park, and Wisbech Port in Wisbech, and the Manor Leisure Centre in Whittlesey.
The firm will be using a specialised herbicide system during the 2018 and 2019 growing season to eradicate the plant, followed by a two-year monitoring period. Following the monitoring period, the eradication will be guaranteed for 10 years.
Homeowners who discover Japanese Knotweed should take action and put a professional treatment plan in place to protect their property and themselves against litigation from their neighbours. While it is not illegal to have the plant growing on your land, you could be prosecuted if you allow it to spread onto someone else’s property.
Mr Lay said: “You need to treat knotweed with specialist chemicals, it must not be cut or strimmed a piece the size of a fingernail will start to grwo again.”
The council spokesman said: “If you are trying to sell your house or raise a mortgage, lenders usually require evidence of treatment programme with a 10-year insurance backed guarantee.”
Ways to identify Japanese Knotweed: It produces red asparagus-like shoots when it first breaks through the ground; has large, heart or spade-shaped green leaves; 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.
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 a controlled waste - but unfortunately it appears there is none in Fenland or the county and therefore anyone who has Japanese Knotweed on their land will have to rely on a specialist contractor to dispose of it.
For more advice visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-japanese-knotweed-from-spreading.