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Council refuses Ballyhaunis Japanese Knotweed treatment facility


Anton McNulty

Planning permission for a facility to treat the Japanese Knotweed plant in Ballyhaunis has been refused over concerns it could not guarantee that the invasive plant would not spread from the site.
Co Kerry-based company Pacs Ltd, trading as the Japanese Knotweed Company, applied for planning permission for a facility to treat soil and stone waste containing Japanese Knotweed at a disused quarry at Hazelhill/Drumbaun, Ballyhaunis. The project was to be the first of its type in Europe.
The project was welcomed by Peter Gill, the Parks Superintendent of Mayo County Council, as an answer to the problem of soils infected by Japanese Knotweed. However, the planning department of the local authority expressed concerns that the applicant could not guarantee that the plant would not spread from the proposed facility.
Japanese Knotweed is one of the most invasive and destructive alien plants in Ireland. Capable of growing through concrete, it can cause damage to buildings and roadways. It  thrives on disturbance, as just 0.7 grammes of the plant is capable of forming a whole new plant. In the past, fly tipping and the transportation of soils containing fragments of the plant have been a major cause of it spreading.
In his report, Mr Gill said Mayo County Council was being proactive in the fight against Japanese Knotweed, though herbicide treatment will not eradicate this non-native species. He  supports the proposed facility in the county and believes the measures employed by the company would prevent further spreading of the plant.
“The combination of biosecurity measures, planning conditions and conditions of the waste permit means that this proposed site will operate to the highest possible standards and will offer a real, viable treatment option for Japanese Knotweed in Co Mayo and beyond. Once these biosecurity measures are implemented and adhered to fully, I believe this facility will not pose any threat to the receiving environment and the surrounding biodiversity,” he stated.
The applicants proposed implementing a strict comprehensive set of procedures that in their opinion would prevent Japanese Knotweed from spreading from the proposed facility.
The removal of Japanese Knotweed from soil was to be achieved by a combination of screening, picking and growth management, without the need for herbicide treatment. The root and crown material of the plant would be placed in double-skinned, sealed bags for removal to a waste-to-energy facility for destruction off site.
However, despite the reassurances, the planners with Mayo County Council stated that the process ‘from cradle to grave’ would require an insurance-backed guarantee and ‘no such guarantee supports this application’. They also cited a lack of scientific evidence and relevant examples to support the construction as a reason for their refusal.
“While in theory the proposed development appears to offer an option for treatment of Japanese Knotweed, the scale of the proposed development and the research presented and the lack of evidence to support the full methodology proposed at the scale intended, leaves no option but to recommend refusal,” the planners report read.