If you’ve spotted white-suited people with packs on their backs in Meltham recently, don’t worry. Spacemen have not landed, nor has there been an outbreak of some infectious disease. Although there has been an invasion of sorts.
The people in the white suits are our trained pesticide specialists. Their mission: to rid the river and its tributaries of Japanese knotweed.
This invasive non-native species has taken root in several places along the River Holme and, without treatment, will spread. Our River Steward, Simon Hirst, said:
“As it’s a non-native species, Japanese knotweed quickly takes over. It pushes out other plants that our native wildlife feed on, thereby reducing diversity. If you try to pull out Japanese knotweed, it will just spread further, so it’s important that it’s treated properly by licensed individuals and disposed of at licensed sites."
Over the next few weeks our trained volunteers will be out and about treating Japanese knotweed along the River Holme.
Homeowners have a legal responsibility
Japanese knotweed has very strong roots and shoots that can also damage buildings and make property difficult to sell. That's why, in this country, it's classified as controlled waste, and landowners have a legal responsibility to control Japanese knotweed on their premises.
Landowners who allow Japanese knotweed to spread can face hefty financial penalties. A recent court case against Network Rail, who failed to manage Japanese knotweed on their land, resulted in significant financial damages being awarded to neighbouring home owners.
“It’s important that we carry out this work every year but, as a charity, we have limited funds. If all homeowners with affected properties along the River Holme donated, it would cost on average less than £100 per household to fund next year's treatment,"said Simon.
"For this, homeowners will also get a certificate detailing the Japanese knotweed treatment work completed that they can use as supporting evidence in disputes or when sellling property," he added.
Left untreated, Japanese knotweed, spreads easily downriver. It’s highly likely if a property backs onto the river and doesn’t have Japanese knotweed at the moment – it will be invaded by this non-native species eventually.
Once we've treated Japanese knotweed we'll be re-planting the cleared areas with native plants to encourage butterflies, bees and birds, as well as providing food and shelter for other native wildlife.