Bespoke October 26, 2016

A bit of a buzz word with the fashionista’s – bespoke suits, bespoke shoes, bespoke lingerie, houses, cars …etc etc… you name it, you can bespoke it.

So how about Japanese knotweed Solutions – what can we offer that’s bespoke?

Well we can do pretty much anything that you fancy?

Unlike ‘other’ companies who will try and push you down a certain route for your knotweed management we will always tailor our methodologies to suit your best requirements.

Some companies will always suggest direct injection as their favoured option (it’s all they can do…) other companies will recommend soil screening (they’ve bought a small screener and it costs them 500 quid a month)…some companies will only suggest chemical treatment with a back pack sprayer (they’ve got a lad who is qualified….)

Japanese Knotweed Solutions ltd offer a different approach in that we will assess your site and look at the various options that are available – then give you the benefit of our experience. This will often entail a variety of approaches in different areas of the site.

Area A at the main entrance night be better removed and taken to licensed landfill whilst Area B at the back of the site can be buried beneath a mound of landscaped material. Areas C,D and E might all be sprayed with translocated herbicide whilst the remaining areas are injected….

Often there is no ‘single’ solution and a variety of methods will be employed – all to ensure that you get a ‘bespoke’ service.

We will then tailor a warranty package to your exact requirements – 3 years sir? 5 years sir? 10 years no problem….

Only the best is good enough for our customers.

Mike C

Growing up October 19, 2016

When I was a child I did foolish things, now I am a man I have put away foolish things ….etc etc or so I would like to think…but…just every once in a while I do feel like acting like a moody twelve year old.

I’ve just been reading an article by a competitor of ours that states that they were the…’first company to have an insurance backed product’ etc etc


Another competitor has written that they were… ‘the founding member of INNSA’ –

Jeez (twice)

Sorry but on both these counts these statements would be a big fat lie.

I don’t know why it bugs me so much – i guess it’s because most people reading this would take it as the truth …and think these guys were some sort of innovators in the market – when actually they are just copy cats.

I’ve never copied anything in my life, in fact it would make me physically sick to think that somebody thought I had ever copied anything from anybody. I am actually averse to thinking like others and have always gone my own way.

Japanese Knotweed solutions were the first company to offer a ten-year insurance backed product in the market – FACT.

Mike Clough (me) made all the phone calls to start the ball rolling with a trade body for the industry. Mike Clough (me) came up with the name INNSA (The Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association – – I set up meetings, I paid for everything and it was me that sourced and took on Thornby Associates the current secretariat.

Mike Clough (me) was the first Chairman of INNSA and without Mike Clough (me) it just wouldn’t exist…FACT.

Mind you – this does piss people off – somebody once said that …’you will either love Mike Clough or you will hate him…. but nothing in-between’.

I have recently found myself pushed out from being chairman of INNSA because of this ability to ‘wind people up’… being seen as a negative factor in encouraging new members – so we now have a ‘nice’ chairman who people can admire and aspire to rubbing shoulders with (he’s also better looking than me…)

We recently had a situation where a new startup company called themselves ‘Japanese Knotweed Solutions….Wales Ltd’ – thinking that this was enough of as differentiation from our company name.

When challenged by our solicitor they replied …’we don’t want to be associated with JKSL’ …DUUUH …. well don’t call yourself the same bloody name then …

Jeez (again)

There is another company running around purporting to be the ‘biggest’ Japanese knotweed company in the UK. This company has ceased trading on more than one occasion and then re-appears using the same website and pretty much the same name – backed by funds from family money.

Jeez (for the last time)

So …here I am trying to be a grown up whilst running around going – ‘stop copying me, stop copying me…. stop lying, stop lying….’

People have said to me in the past that copying somebody is a form of flattery and that I should be pleased when it happens.

People also tell me that liars will always be found out and that i should just be patient as the truth will always ‘come out’…

This is just a step to far for me at the moment – I’m still in the annoyed phase.

At Japanese Knotweed Solutions we continue to be the market leader – we always have been.

No copying and no bull***t.


Mike C

Ecological roulette October 12, 2016

How’s about we accept that we are causing Global Warming??

How’s about we accept that the world we know is changing??

Soooo… taking this on-board – should we doing something to try and save our existing plant and animal species from global changes… orrrrrr… do we just sit by and watch it all go tits up?

Various eminent scientists have warned that just two degrees of warming by 2050 would see millions of species wiped out. Analysis of climate zones in which various species are found – when modeled to see how quickly they could move as the world warms up – estimated that only three quarters could keep up.

There are different thoughts as to how accurate these assessments are and as too what should be done?

Should we interfere with nature and help move species by literally putting them in a van and transporting them northward?

Others argue that species that become threatened within their native ranges – could become invasive in a new evolutionary way? This argument suggests that even in the face of climate change – species should be kept where they ‘belong’.

The counter argument is that there are greater risks from inaction. In an era of rapid climate change organised translocation’s of species could be the only way of to maintain wild populations of some species.

If – as seems to be the case – we are messing with the climate …shouldn’t we at least try to help nature keep up?

The premise is based on species occupying strict climate and ecological zones – and that they will be unable to prosper if that climate changes. Many species could be versatile and may find their way to new environments without the need to tag a lift in the van.

Climate change is likely to be a major driver of species migrations. We are already experiencing a trickle of arrivals crossing the English Channel from France and then pushing north – various wasps, bees and birds are now setting up colonies in the south of the country prior to northward expansion.

Should we be sending them home?

If we accept and welcome them – should we in fact be helping other species make the leap northward?

Britain could actually become a sanctuary for species at risk throughout the world.

We have no undisturbed terrain and no globally endangered species to lose – so an ideal refuge?


Mike C

DJ Risk and MC Hazard October 6, 2016

Hazard and risk are not (surprisingly) a drum & bass duet, as the title suggests. The terms, “hazard” and “risk” are ones we all come across on a regular basis, but many people find the two difficult to define or differentiate.

In health and safety, “hazard” and “risk” have established meanings (although these meanings are not clearly defined in law).

A “hazard” is anything that has the potential to cause harm. We normally class things like vehicular traffic, working at height and falling objects as “hazards”.

“Risk” is the likelihood (or the chance) of something bad happening – so working on a ladder is riskier than working on a secure scissor lift platform or a well-erected scaffold. By the same token, Giant hogweed growing in a kids’ playground would pose more of a risk than Giant hogweed growing in a remote mountain pass.

Most people would agree that working at the top of a long ladder (e.g. cleaning windows) would be more “hazardous” than working in areas where Giant hogweed is present – because the consequences of falling off the ladder would be more severe.

However, without protective equipment, there is a very good chance that anyone working directly with Giant hogweed would suffer significant or severe burns on day one; whereas many window cleaners work up-and-down long ladders day after day without coming to harm.

We would explain this by saying that working with Giant hogweed is a “high-risk” activity and working on top of a ladder is a “high-hazard” activity. Both activities would need some level of control to protect the health and safety of employees.

At the other end of the scale, “low hazard” activities include working at a desk in an office, and “low-risk” activities include, well… if you read the papers, you would probably believe that nothing was “low-risk”… but again, it’s office workers who generally come out best.

That’s not to say that working in an office doesn’t have its safety issues, but in the grand scheme of things, these are relatively minor in comparison.

In order to compare risks, we use a risk assessment – which almost everyone will have come across at some point. Generally, health and safety practitioners assign a rating to a workplace hazard by combining the severity of the hazard and the likelihood (the risk) to give a number or a rating (e.g. low, medium, high etc.) that describes the level of danger. This can then be used to determine what issues need to be addressed in order to manage the health and safety of our workforce.

The invasive weed industry has very particular challenges – especially when working in dangerous areas like riverbanks or construction sites – but the risk assessment process is relevant (and legally required) for the all businesses in the UK (even ones where everyone works in an office!).

What Are EU Looking At?

A similar “risk assessment” approach is used to manage the regulation of pesticides by the European Union. Despite the recent Brexit vote, this is legislation that is likely to govern the UK for some time to come.

In the past, the EU managed pesticides by looking at the “risk” of harm caused by the chemicals. In a nutshell, if the risk could be managed to a low level using suitable controls, then a pesticide would generally be approved for use. This is what’s known as a “risk-based” approach.

However, in 2009 (when EU regulation 1107/2009 was introduced to replace regulation 414/1991), this risk-based approach was abandoned in favour of a “hazard-based approach”.

The “hazard-based approach” means that wherever a pesticide has the potential to cause significant harm – regardless of the controls that are in place – it will be removed from use (or will not be approved for future use).

It is this new approach which has seen UK farmers lose over half of all the active substances registered for use in the UK

While the removal of any potentially harmful products is a noble ideal, and means that EU pesticide controls are the tightest in the world, I feel that it is not always giving the best results, when we balance it with the needs of agriculture, industry and amenity (which is not to say “for business”, because all the above provide countless benefits for normal people).

A more nuanced approach could yield better results, and this zero tolerance approach is inconsistent with the comparatively lax approach to air pollution, fossil and nuclear power generation, fishing and other potentially harmful industrial pollutants.

The latest pesticides in the firing line are those which have been defined as “Endocrine Disruptors”, which the EU is proposing to ban in all but the products with the very lowest categorisation.

One of the problems with this is that it is very hard to define an endocrine disruptor. The term means “something that interferes with the hormone system” – and at its broadest definition, means any chemical which can interfere with the hormone system “at any dose”. This covers a lot of chemicals – both naturally occurring and artificial.

The EU definition is “an exogenous [non-naturally occuring] substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations”. However, no formal criteria have been established for identifying substances with endocrine disrupting properties.

Endocrine disruptors can potentially cause cancer, developmental problems and birth defects and therefore we are right to limit and control their use. In certain cases a ban is absolutely the right thing to do, and was implemented long before we looked at endocrine disruptors as a class of chemicals (e.g. thalidomide and the herbicide 2,4,5-T – which appeared in Agent Orange).

On the other hand, there is an argument that for many potential endocrine disruptors, humans are not exposed to doses which could cause this kind of problem – and furthermore, that under proper usage, the products are essentially safe.

What’s more, reading the list of problems doesn’t give us the full picture of the kind of chemical’s we’re dealing with. Alcohol is an endocrine disruptor. Should we ban that? Alcohol causes thousands of deaths per year in the UK and can’t even be said to have measurable benefits… However, nobody within the EU legislature is calling to ban it (so far as I am aware).

To take the hazard-based model even further to its extreme (and please forgive the borrowing of this example from a corner of the internet): consider dihydrogen monoxide – which at the right levels can cause temporary personality changes, brain damage, seizures, coma and death; surely that should be banned under a hazard based approach?

Well, no; not really. Dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, water.

How about petrol, which can cause birth defects? Again, no. At present, we implement a variety of measures to limit exposure, and importantly, there is not a safer alternative to the product, so to immediately withdraw petrol would be counterbalanced by a loss of services which in many cases are vital for people’s health.

This is what we should really come down to: the approach taken by health and safety professionals across the world, which is to minimise the risks so far as reasonably practicable, and to balance risks with benefits.

I am not a researcher into endocrine disruption, and I am not a Eurocrat with the responsibility of making decisions which affect the lives of millions of people across the EU. However, it seems to me that there is something wrong with our approach to agriculture and amenity when the only legislation being put in place is to ban the available chemistry and all the while, farmers’ gate prices are being driven down and budgets are being cut in vital areas like highway maintenance.

Brexit will potentially give the UK a chance to re-assess these restrictions; I think it is an opportunity that we should take. We should look at measured, balanced actions with safeguarding health as the primary focus.

What to Do?

My personal opinion is that the hazard-based approach is appropriate for the regulation of sales to private individuals – people who are not required to undergo any form of training to apply herbicides on their own property and who aren’t really subject to scrutiny or legal action. This approach has gone a long way to ensuring that people who don’t know any better are not likely to cause an environmental incident with over-the-counter pesticides.

A hazard-based approach might also be appropriate where the effects of a substance are not fully known and/or where the pesticides are applied to food crops. While the jury is still out, and the evidence is not conclusive either way, I personally think that the EU approach to neonicotinoid pesticides (a temporary ban on use) is also correct. Should these pesticides be proved safe for the environment, they can always be re-licensed in future…

A more risk-based approach would be appropriate for the use of pesticides by trained individuals, including farmers, foresters, greenkeepers and other amenity practitioners – because these are trained users, using products regularly under controlled conditions, subject to various legal measures and scrutiny.

Since November 2015, all professional pesticides must legally be sold to and used by only qualified operatives – and anyone applying professional products without a licence can be prosecuted.

The purchasers of food crops (a large portion of which are supermarkets) have very exacting standards and regularly test for pesticide residues – rejecting any produce which does not measure up.

It is reasonable to expect that professional herbicides are not just being sprayed willy-nilly about our city streets and round the countryside (despite a few local contractors who still don’t seem to understand how to apply glyphosate-based herbicides).

When a trained individual is acting for a company who can demonstrate a level of competence above and beyond the minimum legal requirement – someone like an INNSA member, who subscribes to a strict Code of Practice and who meets the Amenity Assured Standard – the risks are much different to other operators who may not meet such high standards.

The authorities (both in the EU and the UK) have the ability to licence products for use in certain fields and not in others (so something could be used in amenity settings, but not on food crops) and this approach should be used more often.

There is also no reason not to attach strings to the more hazardous approved chemicals. If their use is determined to be important enough and low-risk enough to warrant their use, government could (if it chose to) put a premium on their price to allow for the implementation of rigorous monitoring and testing of sites on which they are used.

There is every reason to control the use of pesticides, which in all cases are dangerous (if only to their target pests). However, there are also flip-sides to the coin. In a world which is going to depend increasingly on intensive farming and low-carbon supply chains (meaning local-grown foods), we can’t simply ban all pesticides overnight in the same way that we can’t just immediately stop using petrol or diesel.

Unlike fuels, where alternatives are already on the market (although not so widely available), we are rapidly approaching the point where we have banned all of our tools with no realistic alternatives.

Chris Oliver, TechIOSH, MBATR (Invasive and Injurious Weeds)
Operations Manager, Japanese Knotweed Solutions Limited

What do I do… October 5, 2016

I’ve been having some sort of crisis recently based around losing confidence in what it is I actually do?

I’ve always thought that I’ve been THE key element in the success of Japanese Knotweed Solutions…. but recently I’ve begun to suspect it’s nothing to do with me?

On a day to day basis there is nothing that I do that actually seems to be KEY to the day-to-day running of the company. I could just not turn up – for days, weeks …even months – and I’m pretty sure everything would just run smoothly and efficiently.

I would even go so far as to say – it might even run smoother…!

The day to day organization of the teams runs far better than when I stick my oar in….and the cash flow and accounts side of things works better without my muddled questions…

SO… what is it …that I actually do???

No seriously – can anyone tell me?? …this could be early onset dementia or some other potentially life ending condition 🙁

I suspect that it’s something to do with a short film I watched about thirty years ago based around a business idea that suggested that an owner should…. ‘work ON the business… not IN the business’.

It is a mantra that I repeated to myself for years and years until it became a sort of base point from which I made all my decisions. I think that what’s caught me by surprise is that for years I’ve been trying to achieve this type of nirvana and just never had the right people to make it work. Then suddenly out of nowhere the current team seem to just get it…and they just get on with doing their roles to the best of their ability

SO – what it is that i do, is work… ON …the business.

I think ahead, I plan, I strategise and I look for opportunities.

I meet new people and I look at where I can network and bump into the next major client.



I might sleep tonight.


Mike C