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Councillors tying themselves in knots over invasive Knotweed

October 22nd, 2018 1:10 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Japanese Knotweed can cause a lot of damage and is difficult to eradicate.

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THE National Parks & Wildlife Services (NPWS) are the enforcement authority when it comes to dealing with the problem of the invasive Japanese Knotweed on private properties where the owners are not acting to treat it.

Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) had raised a motion at a meeting of the local authority asking for a written report from the Environment section as to what options were available in such a scenario.

‘A lot of work is being done to treat Japanese Knotweed in public areas, but an issue has arisen on a number of occasions when it’s on private grounds and the owners are not treating it. This causes great concern for neighbouring properties because if it isn’t treated, it will spread,’ said Cllr McGrath.

‘We should therefore write to NPWS to find out what enforcements exist.’

Cllr Joe Harris (SD) welcomed the reply but said it was a bit ‘wishy washy.’

‘I’ve never heard of the NPWS enforcing anything,’ said Cllr Harris.

Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) said she had contacted NPWS on a number of occasions regarding the presence of Japanese Knotweed on private lands but that they were unable to provide any treatment options.

‘It’s a capacity issue and they find it difficult to carry out their role even though it is their job,’ said Cllr D’Alton.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said that as a Council they do not enter private lands.

‘Our hands are tied and we are precluded from entering private lands but it should be lifted and we should be allowed to enter where it is necessary to do so,’ said Cllr Murphy.

County mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said they would write back to the NPWS to ascertain the enforcement role and the level of activity they’ve had in relation to the invasive species on private property that is not being treated.

Meanwhile, at a recent meeting of Bandon Kinsale Municipal District, Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) called for a more joined-up thinking approach county-wide to tackle the problem. 

Cllr Coughlan said that current measures to tackle it all seemed a bit ‘ad hoc’ and called for a standalone budget to tackle the invasive species.

‘Because it’s so easily spread it’s going to be a problem that’s going to continue to grow and I would like Cork County Council to set aside a budget for this and perhaps an officer dealing with the education aspect of it and the containment scenario,’ said Cllr Coughlan.

Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) said its presence has implications for road programmes and he highlighted an example in West Cork of a resurfacing job which had to be cancelled because of the presence of the invasive species.

Cllr Aidan Lombard (FG) said that it looks like that in some counties like Kerry and Wicklow, Transport Infrastructure Ireland has started treating regional roads.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said that if it’s on public land it’s up to the local authority to treat it and if it’s found on private land, then it’s the responsibility of the landowner.

Senior executive engineer Charlie McCarthy told councillors that they have been treating the invasive species at critical locations over the last number of years.

‘If it’s on private property it is the responsibility of the landowner to treat it. It’s just the sheer scale of the problem and I can think of a location where we treated the plant at a junction on a number of occasions, but a half acre behind it was full of Knotweed and landowners have a responsibility for it,’ said Mr McCarthy.

Executive engineer Brendan Fehily said that they have been very pro-active in Kinsale in dealing with Japanese Knotweed and they have retained a consultant to tackle over the past three years, despite having no budget for it or a grants system in place.  

‘A database of infestations is recorded after being reported in Kinsale and they mark them and review them every year and go back and check on them. The bill from them last year was €2,500 while the year before it was between €1,500 and €2,000.’

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