Science and Technology Committee holds session on Japanese Knotweed

The Science and Technology Committee yesterday held its anticipated session on Japanese Knotweed and its impact on the built environment.

The sessions were broken into two parts. Firstly, focusing on the scientific evidence around the impact of Knotweed; and then secondly focusing on the response of bodies with an interest in the area.

Watch the Select Committee debate

To view the debate, click on the link below (note: video from the BBC is 106 mins).

Watch the Scientific and Technology Committee debate the impact of Japanese Knotweed

Session 1 of the Science and Technology Committee

Session 1 made up of the following leading academics and professionals:

  • Professor Max Wade, Technical Director, AECOM
  • Dr Daniel Jones, Managing Director, Advanced Invasives
  • Ben Lindley, Sales and Marketing Director, Japanese Knotweed Ltd
  • Sean Hathaway, Environment Officer, Swansea Council

The session largely focused on the 7-metre rule and the questions the scientific evidence that lead to the adoption of the 7-metre rule adopted by the Environment Agency in the RICS information paper.

The debate, directed by questions from the committee, agreed that further academic research was desirable to fully answer this question and that that it will take all parties to pull together to determine an answer. Without the data, there is risk! However, the perception of risk may be based more from experience rather than from scientific evidence. Contributors seemed to suggest that in hindsight, the 7metre rule is possibly too cautionary!

Session 2 of the Science and Technology Committee

Session 2 was made up of bodies of interest within the industry and included:

  • John Baguley, Tangible Assets Valuation Director, RICS
  • Matthew Jupp, Principal, Mortgages, UK Finance
  • Dr Mark Diamond, Head of Ecology, Environment Agency
  • Stephen Hodgson, Chief Executive Officer, Property Care Association

Session 2 largely focused on whether the problem of Knotweed was being overstated and the RICS 2012 Knotweed Guidance Paper and its impact on lending on properties. References however, where also made towards the continued use of Glyphosate and the impact of Knotweed on neighbours.

In terms of it being overstated, most of the panel concurred that certain content online as well as media coverage over recent years has probably lead to some misconceptions of Japanese Knotweed however, that was not to say that it is not a problem! The key focus here is ‘what are we going to do to help manage these misconceptions?’

In terms of the RICS 2012 Guidance Paper, the focus was very much on whether the guidance being offered to valuers was outdated and as a result causing unnecessary suffering to property sellers and buyers.

It was clear to all parties that the RICS 2012 Guidance Paper was outdated and needed to factor in recent evidence published within the Leeds University paper, as well and more scientific evidence as discussed in Session 1 to better guide valuers when Japanese Knotweed has a presence at or near a property. RICS is now committed to leading and changing this and bringing people within the industry together to map out new updated guidelines.

Key Takeaways from the Select Committee

There is a need for a more scientific robust Risk Assessment on Japanese Knotweed and its impact on structural damage as well the need to re-examine the current guidelines and policy on treating the plant.

There is also a clear need to ensure the RICS 2012 Guidelines are updated as soon as possible to help direct lenders and valuers, and minimise any unnecessary suffering for those vendors affected by the presence of Japanese Knotweed.

Thankfully, all parties for once are in agreement.

Some pictures from the day

Find out more about Japanese Knotweed