Garden District infested with giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed

JUST their names are enough to cause terror.

Tuesday, 7th June 2016, 5:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2016, 9:32 am
Allister McKillop of Currie Community Council with some Giant Hogweed in the Garden District site. Picture: Greg Macvean

Giant hogweed is a monster plant which can cause severe burns and even blindness if people touch it; Japanese knotweed is able to eat through tarmac and concrete, destroying property, and has been labelled the scourge of British homeowners. Both plants spread at a rapid rate and are notoriously difficult to eradicate.

But large areas of land earmarked for 1320 news homes as part of the so-called Garden District development on the outskirts of the Capital are infested with the two plants, according to locals.

Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray has won council approval for the massive housing project on greenbelt land at Gogar, though he still needs the final go-ahead from the Scottish Government.

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Murray Estates insisted the giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed would not mean any delay to the scheme.

A spokesman said their presence was “an inconvenience, not a gamechanger”.

He added: “These are problems encountered all over Scotland; they can be treated.”

Critics, however, are accusing Murray Estates of failing to eradicate the weeds despite repeated representations over many years.

Allister McKillop, chair of Currie Community Council, said the problem had been known for at least 20 years, but it had never been properly addressed.

He said: “The kids used to get warnings and they know not to go near it, but it is a continuing concern.

“It has been pushed under the carpet in the hope people won’t recognise what a big issue it is.”

“This has been a known issue for many years and it has not been addressed.

“There is a law about this and why the situation has been allowed just to meander along is beyond me. People know about it, it is a dangerous weed and action has to be taken before anything else.”

Neighbours said they had been trying for the past five years to get Murray Estates to “do the right thing” and eradicate the weeds.

They said it had now polluted the Gogarburn and was affecting the Union Canal’s wildflower habitat.

Steve Burgess, leader of the Green group on the city council, said: “This is a major developer who should be taking responsibility for care of the site while it is undeveloped. Even if the public is not likely to come into direct contact with it, giant hogweed spreads very rapidly and the council should be using its powers to enforce control if necessary.

“If what the developer has done is not effective that is not satisfactory and I would be looking to the council to enforce action.”

Jestyn Davies, managing director of Murray Estates, said the weeds were an issue on land throughout Edinburgh, central Scotland and the UK.

He said: “We regularly liaise with the council and other landowners on this issue, and we have an ongoing programme of spraying being carried out.

“The issue is not a significant one in term of future development, but we will take further specific action in the run-up to construction activities should it prove to be necessary.”