Council ‘sticking heads in sand’ over knotweed claims councillor

PEOPLE who cause a persistent nuisance by not dealing with Japanese knotweed on their land won’t be hit with anti-social behaviour notices, council chiefs in Carmarthenshire have decided.

Doing so, they said, would be hard to resource and put the council out of step with other Welsh authorities.

The opposition said the Plaid-Independent administration was burying its head in the sand on the issue.

Cabinet was considering the knotweed enforcement route following a notice of motion approved by full council last November, which called on the administration to start using community protection notices (CPNs) to penalise landowners in cases where the invasive plant had a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life.

The motion – put forward by Labour group leader, Cllr Rob James – said CPNs could be deployed by councils under the 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

Parts of south Wales including Llanelli are particularly affected by knotweed, according to a map produced by a UK knotweed removal company called Environet.

The fast-growing plant is hard to eradicate and can affect mortgage applications and bump up home insurance costs.

Cllr Philip Hughes, cabinet member for public protection, advised against the use of CPNs at a meeting on Monday, January 17.

There was uncertainty about the scale of the problem, he said, and resource and “proportionality” issues.

He said: “I fully appreciate the local sensitivities this sometimes creates, but I think our previous decision (not to issue CPNs) was a sensible one and I believe remains so.”

A report before cabinet said CPNs were rarely used by local authorities to clamp down on knotweed. It said councils would have to be satisfied there was a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the area, and that the problem was persistent and unreasonable.

“This is a subjective assessment and must be evidence-based,” it said.

The report also said the cost of removing knotweed would disproportionately impact poorer households, and that “DIY” treatments might unwisely be attempted.

It warned of difficulties in identifying owners of unregistered or vacant land, and of extra costs if the council opted to eradicate knotweed – with a view to reclaiming the money – in cases where landowners didn’t comply with CPNs.

Cllr Ann Davies, cabinet member for communities and rural affairs, said another invasive plant – Himalayan balsam – was a real problem along the county’s main rivers.

She said residents might call on the council to issue CPNs for the plant, as well as knotweed, if it changed its stance on the matter.

“There’s no way we, as a county, would be able to fund a way of getting rid of these two (plants) that we have,” she said.

After the meeting, Labour’s Cllr James said: “Despite an unanimous vote of Carmarthenshire Council, Plaid Cymru’s cabinet voted to continue sticking their head in the sand and refusing to take action over Japanese knotweed.

“Knotweed and other non-native invasive plants are blanketing our land and blighting our communities, with some families unable to mortgage a property or having to pay astronomical home insurance payments, due to this council’s lack of action on this issue.”

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