New team would tackle rise in dangerous plants

Japanese knotweed is one of the plant species that the dedicated team will be looking to tackle
Japanese knotweed is one of the plant species that the dedicated team will be looking to tackle
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A dedicated team of council staff could be created to tackle the increase in dangerous weeds across the borough.

Wigan Council is looking at ways to tackle the rise of invasive non-native plant species, primarily Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed.

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It has identified around 162 hectares of land directly affected by the plants, including 17 hectares where houses could be built.

The council is proposing to have a dedicated team of staff tackling the issue over the next three years.

It would have the equivalent of four full-time employees and two vehicles and cost up to £105,000 per year.

The plans have been detailed in a report by assistant director Penny McGinty for Monday’s meeting of the council’s confident council scrutiny committee.

It states: “It was concluded that the council needed to act in order to avoid the further spread of invasive weeds across the borough. It was therefore recommended to explore option C (temporary dedicated greenspaces team - risk prioritisation by species) as an ‘invest to save’ proposal to implement a programme of treatment against a prioritised list of sites.”

Currently the council’s greenspaces team treats the plants as part of their grounds maintenance work.

But it is thought a “proactive programme of treatment and ongoing monitoring” is needed.

The report states: “Invasive non-native (plant) species (INNS) pose a threat to bio-diversity and have a detrimental economic impact, from diminishing land and property values to physical property damage.

“This can affect the council directly (as landlord and land owner) and indirectly - if it becomes liable for damage to third party properties.”

It reports Network Rail was successfully sued by two neighbours in north Wales last year for compensation and treatment costs.

There are concerns about the impact the weeds can have on other wildlife and that it can delay construction work.

The report states: “The presence of INNS in land identified for development can hinder or delay such development, with treatment requiring three to five years to be effective.”

The council also considered whether the work should be done by private contractors, but estimated this would cost £10m over three years.

If councillors decide to set up the dedicated team, the report states there are opportunities for a mapping tool to be integrated with the authority’s ‘Report It’ app so people can report finding the weeds and work could be done with other organisations to control the plants in the long-term.

There could also be The Deal For Invasive Weeds, which could see members of existing community groups working alongside staff on treatment and prevention.

Giant hogweed was found growing on the banks of the River Douglas near Appley Bridge in August. The plant can inflict horrendous burns and swellings.

Last month, volunteer Alan Baines was told to stop carrying out “unauthorised” work at Rayner Park in Hindley, including cutting back the invasive weeds, “for the safety of the local community”.

Read more: Volunteer told he could be arrested for cleaning his local park