UK Environment Agency has withdrawn guidelines for the management of Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is one of the most prolific invasive species listed under the Third Schedule of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (as amended 2015) present in Ireland. It is an offence under these regulations to plant, disperse or allow/cause the dispersal or spread of this species in the environment. As of the 11th of July 2016, the UK Environment Agency has withdrawn its best practice guidelines for the management of Japanese Knotweed “Managing Japanese Knotweed on development sites; the knotweed code of practice” (Environment Agency, 2013). This document has been used widely as a key reference for the management, treatment and eradication of Japanese Knotweed, and other Knotweed species, within the UK and Ireland. It is unclear as to why this document has been withdrawn. We have submitted a formal query as to the reasons for withdrawal and will update you on the Environment Agency’s response. Nationally, there are a number of guidance documents for the control of Knotweed species in Ireland including “Guidelines on The Management of Noxious Weeds and Non-Native Invasive Plant Species on National Roads” (NRA, 2010), “Best Practice for Control of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)” (IFI, 2013) and “Best Practice Management Guidelines – Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)” (Kelly et al, 2015)

In recent weeks the European Communities List of Invasive Alien Species under Regulation (EU) 1143/2014 of the European Parliament on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species has been published. This List was released on the 13th of July 2016. Under the Regulation, species on this list may not be intentionally brought into EU territory or be kept, bred, transported to, from or within the EU, sold, grown or released into the environment. European Member States now have three years to prepare action plans to address pathways and to prevent the introduction and spread of IASs in their territories. The List was compiled using species which had been assessed using risk assessments compiled by expert panels and compliant with Article 4(3) and 4(6) of the Regulation.

The List does not contain any Knotweed species. Japanese Knotweed had a compliant risk assessment in place but was not considered to be compliant with Article 4(3) or 4(6) of the Regulation and therefore it is not included in the List. However, it is considered to be a dynamic document and will be updated following further analysis and assessment. It is also highlighted in supporting documentation to the Regulation that it remains each country’s own responsibility to tackle IASs in their territories even if they are not included on the List.

The implications of the List in Ireland is that the State now has three years to prepare formal action plans for the management of species including, amongst others, Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), Curly Leaved Waterweed (Lagarosiphon major) and Parrots feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum). In addition, the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations continue to apply and species not on the European Communities List of Invasive Alien Species, including Japanese Knotweed, must still be treated cautiously to prevent further spread in the wider environment. Here in McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan, we will continue to incorporate the measures described in the national guidelines (listed above) in all our invasive species management plans and ecological impact assessments, where appropriate.

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