Residents plea over invasive '˜thug' plant which can destroy homes

Residents fear their homes are under attack from a destructive plant.

Sunday, 31st July 2016, 11:51 pm
Updated Monday, 1st August 2016, 3:54 pm
Residents on Woodland Grove in Blackpool are being plagued by knotweed, which is encroaching further and further onto their properties from a derelict area of land behind the gardens. Resident Wendy Witheridge next to the source of the problem. PIC BY ROB LOCK 26-7-2016

People living in Woodland Grove, Blackpool, are calling on environmental health chiefs to help them in their battle against Japanese Knotweed.

They claim the invasive shrub is growing on an area of derelict land at the back of their homes and has spread onto an adjoining back alley.

One resident is already paying £360 a year for it to be sprayed.

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Wendy Witheridge, who works at Blackpool Fire Station, said people were at the end of their tether.

She said: “At first it looked harmless and it was only when one of the neighbours alerted us to it, that we realised the situation.

“This is going to affect our properties and will only spread more.

“I’ve contacted the council and they have told us the buildings on the land are going to be demolished and that will sort it out.

“But we’re worried that won’t be enough. The source is on the land and our hands are tied unless the landowner does something.”

Japanese Knotweed spreads rapidly and can cause damage to buildings and hard surfaces.

It can be treated with strong herbicides under strict environmental guidelines, and infested areas can be up to three metres deep. Remnants should then be burned.

According to the Home Office website, it can “grow through tarmac and can cause structural damage to property”. Failing to control the weed may be deemed anti-social behaviour under powers introduced in 2014.

Anna Elgee, also of Woodland Grove, and her husband are paying £360 a year for four years to spray the Knotweed after the issue was highlighted by their surveyor when they bought their home.

She said: “We couldn’t get a mortgage unless we did this, and after four years we will get a certificate to say we are clear of it.”

Phil Ainscough, who has lived on the road for 27 years, said: “My main concern is it may be spreading under our properties and will damage the fabric of the house.

“It would rip up the garden if it came through.”

Until recently the land, a former industrial site, was owned by St Annes-based Westminster Properties, but when approached by The Gazette they said they had sold it to Glasgow company Killearn homes Ltd.

A search by The Gazette on Companies House showed Killearn Homes was dissolved in February 2013 via compulsory strike off.

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said they could not get involved because it was a private dispute.

Talbot ward councillor Mark Smith, who represents the residents, said: “A resident has contacted me and I have entered it as a ward inquiry for the relevent department to contact her about her concerns.”