Japanese knotweed in 2014.

Friday 3rd January 2014

Another year has passed and Japanese knotweed continues to spread – faster than it is being controlled! To take my own village as an example, I know of at least 10 individual stands of knotweed, scattered around the village – it is quite possible that there are more stands in back gardens, not known to me. Only one of these stands is being treated professionally – the others are either being treated (occasionally) by the owners or (more normally) not being treated at all. Most of these are in domestic gardens (60%), with the remainder being on commercial premises or public open space. I have discussed the knotweed with a few residents and they do not want it treated – regarding the knotweed as either a minor issue or something that they like and want to keep!

Inevitably, untreated stands will spread and lead to further outbreaks of Japanese knotweed in our local area! Our local stands (mainly small at the moment) typically directly affect 2-3 properties each, so the properties in the village that are affected is around 25 (out of approximately 1200 properties – so approximately 2% of houses are directly affected, with (assuming a 25m radius from the affected areas) another 8% being ‘at risk’ of having an infestation.

Our village is however very lightly affected indeed. We do not live in an area notorious for Japanese knotweed and I would like to ensure that this never happens! Other communities however have a much higher percentage of properties directly affected. I know of some villages and towns, where the percentage of properties directly affected by knotweed (with it growing in their gardens) is higher than 50%, in some streets, 100% of all properties are directly affected by knotweed.

Treating these areas is difficult, as it is necessary to obtain consents and permissions from every landowner – and enforcing their agreement is a difficult, complex, expensive and time consuming affair – at least it is in England and Wales! Scotland by contrast has taken a different approach and it is possible for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to force landowners to treat their knotweed in a proper manner (where voluntary agreements have failed). We need similar legislation in this part of the United Kingdom as well, too often we see cases where a neighbour will not permit their knotweed to be treated – thereby losing house sales or impacting on values. My wish for 2014 is for new Japanese knotweed legislation to cover England and Wales, firstly to encourage a voluntary agreement and secondly to permit a Government body to enforce treatment where necessary.

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