Since everyone in my street has decided to put out their Christmas lights early (and me, I caved-in to the peer pressure!) it’s made me feel it’s time to sum up the-year-that-was 2020 (from an invasive weed perspective!) especially in the context of the special challenges the year has thrown at us.
Firstly, I don’t need to tell you that the human and financial costs of the pandemic have been enormous and we feel very keenly the impact this has had on you all individually and collectively – whether personal or material – the resulting stress has challenged everyone’s reserves of optimism and resilience. If any of our members or anyone within the wider community of the Property Care market needs some support please don’t hesitate to let us know and we’ll do our very best to help.
As I think you are all aware the PCA has responded to the pandemic with as much energy and positivity as we could muster and we hope the initiatives we put in place particularly during the first Lockdown were useful. We had Tune-in Tuesdays (member chatroom and news briefings), regular CPD webinars and business surgeries to help you navigate your way through the Furlough Scheme and gain access to Government loans etc.
A recap on the Invasive Species Webinars
All of these are available to watch via our webinar library, which hosts an extensive array of webinars.
Japanese knotweed: problem plant or ‘just a weed’? Yours truly tackled this rhetorical question – teasing out the key characteristics of Japanese knotweed which make it such a nuisance whilst accepting the fact that its structural impacts on buildings have been, and often still are, over-stated.
Getting to Grips with Giant Hogweed was presented by Prof. Max Wade (AECOM and past Chairman of the PCA’s Invasive Weed Group) and highlighted the significance of Giant Hogweed’s harmful side-effects on unsuspecting members of the public.
Under the Radar – Buddleia and Bamboo was a thought-provoking exposé of these non-native invasive species that, whilst under-the-radar as far as Schedule 9 is concerned, are quite problematic and widespread in gardens and the wider countryside.
Risks of Being and Expert Witness was of general interest to all PCA’s sector groups but, as it was delivered by Dr Paul Beckett (Phlorum Ltd.), he was able to give it an invasive slant.
Keeping you posted with our ‘blogs’
The year has also been busy with unfolding news which has a direct impact on Invasive Weed specialists. The PCA has been busy keeping you all informed via direct emails and blog posts which are usually signposted from our weekly (Friday) news bulletins but, as with the webinars, these are still available to read (perhaps when you have a mince pie in one hand and a sherry in the other?):
Japanese Knotweed – Future Challenges – was the final part of a short series of articles summarising the report, commissioned by Defra, which focussed primarily on Japanese knotweed management overseas.
Reports & Management Plans – Friend or Foe pointed out that a well-constructed and carefully-worded survey report and/or Management Plan can be an asset to your business. Conversely, a failure to define the limits of your liabilities (if you say for example, without caveat, “there is no knotweed present”) can leave you vulnerable to litigation.
Will Brexit make a Difference? When European Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulations were translated into UK law they were the subject of our first post of the year. Later, Defra published their guidance on the Regulations and we summarised what we thought were the key points in the context of the existing obligations of the Wildlife & Countryside Act.
Japanese knotweed – It’s what you can’t see you should worry about – not so much ‘news’ this time but an opinion piece highlighting the importance of mapping stands of Japanese knotweed including the subterranean part!
Does COVID-19 change our perception of ‘Invasive Species’? was a topical reflection on the sudden and very necessary focus on invasive species (in this case a pathogenic virus) and what this might mean for awareness of biosecurity in general at Government level (already high as evidenced by the Invasive Species Select Committee hearings and report in 2019).
Finally, we always aim to keep you up-to-date with relevant research in the UK and around the world so the following articles are worth another look; the second one certainly lends strength to the arguments put forward in the RPA report (see above) that Japanese knotweed is a focus of attention for Governments and research institutions in North America and Europe:
How have our members fared in 2020?
During the course of this year’s membership audits I have tried to gauge the state of the market. No clear pattern has emerged primarily because members’ businesses may be more focussed on domestic residential or commercial development work opportunities; the latter sector seems to be more robust/bouyant. But it IS clear that since August the property market has had a mini-boom and this will surely be translated in to new survey opportunities etc.
Virtual meetings meant we kept the momentum going!
Unfortunately, we had to cancel this year’s International Invasive Weed Conference; the event had been growing year on year and if it wasn’t for Covid-19 we are sure the trend would have continued. All is not lost; most of the hard work done in preparation for 2020 will act as the springboard for the Organising committee for 2021 and the date is already set for 25th November at The Slate, Warwick University (as before).
We also had to cancel our usual face-to-face Invasive Weed Control Group meeting in the autumn. However, this was replaced by a virtual event using Zoom and worked very well with about 20 attending and all felt that, after all, it worked very well. Next year we may do this again in the spring but sincerely hope we can offer ‘real-time’ meetings too.
Summing-up a difficult year
The PCA has had a single driving objective this year which has been to deliver as near-normal a level of service and support to our members as possible. Apart from keeping information and news flowing, our office team have dealt with the challenges of getting Training and Exams back up-and-running (thanks to Jade Stocker and her team). For any training enquiries please contact the team on 01480 400000.
No one at the start of the year could have predicted the way 2020 would pan out. It has been a year of challenges, one where we have all had to adapt and adjust to new situations. We can but hope that this also brings new opportunities too. Perhaps the Christmas ‘downtime’ can be put to good use with some planning/preparation for the challenges we face in 2021? The PCA looks forward to being a key part of your success!
Other recent news or related info
- Defra’s Research: Is the UK’s approach to Japanese knotweed Jusitified?
- Japanese knotweed – It’s what you can’t see you should worry about!
- Japanese knotweed management – The challenge
- The Hodgson View: Save energy but not by papering over the cracks
- Green Homes Grant Scheme – An appeal & some help
- Green Homes Grant Scheme: The principles and the pitfalls
- Green Homes Grant Scheme: What does this mean for Ventilation?
- Hodgson View: Damp in Traditional Buildings
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