Author: Mike Clough

Date Posted: Wednesday 11th December 2019

‘The doomsday clock is at a minute to midnight.

The world is oblivious to the danger.’

This may sound like the premise of a new tv boxset but it’s actually a quote for me referring to the issues with invasive plants in the UK.

Currently there are two major problems within the invasive weed industry.

We have a supposed ‘study’ from a bunch of half assed ‘experts’ from Leeds that have suggested that Japanese knotweed is no worse than ‘other plant species.’

We also have the Environment Agency conducting a ‘review’ of the legislative process involving the impact of invasive plants.

Put these two in separate boxes and the industry could probably knock them out of the park – but put them together and people are beginning to question the benefits of the entire industry. The study has raised concerns that residential property owners are being put under undue stress by the threat of damage by Japanese knotweed to both property and its potential to prevent the sale at some later stage.

What the industry requires is somebody to stand up and be counted.

When I say somebody – I mean somebody in authority.

Somebody with some credibility and somebody with a pair of balls.

Years ago I was told by a high ranking person in the Environment Agency that when Japanese knotweed first raised its head in the UK various concerned staff within the agency flagged up the problem.

They were told that this was… ‘not a priority’… and they should focus their attention on flood prevention.

Now at this time ….Japanese knotweed ….could ….have ….been ….eradicated.

Eradicated – cleared and removed from our shores – simply because the infestations were only contained in certain key areas.

However because these infestations were ignored they rapidly spread. So rapidly did they spread that they are now out of control and impossible to eradicate. The infestations are so prevalent that when new legislation to prescribe against specific plants was introduced – Japanese knotweed wasn’t even on the list because it was felt it would be too onerous on land owners to insist that they manage the problem.

Because Japanese knotweed became such a problem over such a short period of time – legislation was introduced via the ‘Wildlife and Countryside Act’- this legislative document began the process of opening the eyes of land owners and giving power to the EA to enforce management of the plant.

The follow up introduction of the ‘Code of Practice for Managing and Controlling Japanese knotweed’ gave a series of prescribed methodology for dealing with the invasive monster and an industry was born.

So why oh why are we questioning the validity of invasive species management?

What the industry needs is clear legislation.

Clear fines.

Clear black and white court cases.

Clear education as to who should be allowed to deal with removal of invasive plants.

…and a clearly advertised code recognised as the definitive guide to controlling invasive species within our environment.

The Environment Agency have withdrawn their code of practice and the two trade bodies INNSA and the PCA each provide their own versions of the document. This in itself is a little confusing and doesn’t help when trying to convince customers of the validity of one code over the other. Thus, we are already introducing some doubt into the mind of the landowner.

When then questioned as to whether anybody has ever been prosecuted for not following the ‘code’ – one has to reply… ‘no this has never happened’ ……

When you then introduce the Leeds study and the EA study – it won’t be too long before less scrupulous developers just go back to ignoring the problem and moving contaminated waste around the country destroying all the good works that have been done to date.

If they ever end up on court and say as their defence…. ‘I was confused as to whether there was a problem or not …?’ –

I’m thinking a lot of judges would just say ‘well… I’m not surprised…. not guilty ….’

‘The environmental doomsday clock hit midnight and the indigenous species left the country knowing that their livelihood was under threat with no defence available…’

Mike C

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Mike Clough

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