Residents fear for homes over Japanese knotweed infestation

Residents fear for homes over Japanese knotweed infestation

Residents living in the shadow of a huge Japanese knotweed infestation are considering legal action if the council does not take immediate steps to tackle the problem, writes Eoin English.

Residents on Rathmore Road in Cork say they have extreme concerns that their homes are at risk of structural damage if action isn’t taken soon to treat the invasive species growing rampantly on council land just inches from three homes.

Rathmore Park resident Sam McKinlay
Rathmore Park resident Sam McKinlay

It is house-high and has already begun to encroach on the patio of one house.

The residents say they are extremely frustrated by Cork City Council’s lack of action since they first raised their concerns about the rogue plant almost a year ago.

Geraldine Collins said: “It is an absolute disgrace. It is growing on council property and we are suffering because of the lack of due care. It is damaging property, blocking light, and what was once a view over the city.”

Residents fear for homes over Japanese knotweed infestation

Japanese knotweed, native to Japan, has spread across Ireland since its introduction as an ornamental plant in the 19th century.

It can grow through concrete, tarmac, and other hard surfaces causing serious structural damage to houses, buildings, hard surfaces, and service infrastructure such as pipes and cables.

It is extremely difficult to eradicate, and can regenerate from fragments weighing as little as 0.7 grammes.

In Northern Ireland, special licences are required by hauliers transporting the material to landfill, and here, a special licence is required from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to move soil containing Japanese knotweed.

Experts hired by the residents last year found a 900sqm infestation is “severely encroaching” on one property, and that two more houses are at risk.

“Further to the potential of structural damage to bounding structures and/or hard landscaping, footpaths, there is a risk of damage to existing services located in or near the infestation — water, sewerage,” their report read.

They recommend a three- to four-year herbicidal treatment programme, with a possible fifth season due to the scale of the problem, and said it should be undertaken last August or September.

City officials told the residents that while they appreciate their concerns, there is no funding available to tackle the problem.

The council engaged consultants last year to map the locations of Japanese knotweed on both public and private lands.

The exercise also identified priority areas in most need of attention. But they said there was no provision made in the 2016 budgets to start control measures of the weed at any sites and that funding would be considered for 2017.

Ms Collins said: “It is imperative that we receive a commitment from the city council to commence treatment in September, otherwise we will have no alternative but to take legal advice on the matter.”

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner website.


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