Along with a number of other industry professionals and businesses, I attended the first annual Non Native Specialists Association (INNSA) Conference held at the Museum of Science and Technology (MOSI) in Manchester.
It proved to be quite an interesting conference in terms of understanding the possible litigation that may come from having to deal with Non Native Weeds.
Recent European legislation makes it an offence not to notify the presence of certain invasive weeds particularly when buying and selling property / land.
The well attended event covered a wide range of subject matter, ranging from the implications of recent Government legislation for the invasive species industry to perspectives from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), mortgage lenders and property lawyers. The new INNSA code of practice was launched and there were presentations by the Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB) and The Property Ombudsman (TPO).
One of the most prolific weeds to deal with is Japanese Knotweed, which has recently made many newspaper headlines, with a recent account seen in the South Wales Evening Post
Homeowners could be fined up to £2,500 under the new rules of The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act 2014, which now classes failing to control highly invasive plants as 'anti-social behaviour.' The fines for businesses can be as high as £20,000.
Swansea has long been regarded as a hotspot for Japanese Knotweed, and some mortgage providers have been reluctant to lend to properties affected by the plant.
Last year, Elizabeth Wakeman, who was attempting to sell a property on Carmarthen Road to fund care for her great aunt Elizabeth Wakeman, was told it was worth almost half its asking price because of Japanese knotweed on an adjacent property.
Instead of an expected £80,000 for the property, the presence of knotweed on an adjacent piece of land had seen it valued at £45,000.
These sort of cases bring about a lot of work for all parties concerned. It was this legislation that inspired Mike Clough to set up INNSA with the aim of giving people the right advice in dealing with these weed problems.
INNSA is the only trade body that represent only invasive species specialists and requires that its members commit to the highest standards in the services that they offer property owners. All INNSA remediators are required to be BASIS registered and firms must belong to the Amenity Assured scheme. The new Code of Practice will add a layer of protection for consumers and businesses that overlays the requirement for technical excellence.
INNSA Chairman Mike Clough commented 'I was delighted with the first annual Conference that brought together invasive species specialists, lawyers, surveyors, search companies and other property professionals. The packed agenda was very well received by the audience, and a number of delegates signalled their intention to both subscribe to the new INNSA Code of Practice and to join the Association. We can now move forward with confidence and engage with all property stakeholders to gain their formal recognition for the Code to protect them and their clients.'
Graham Ellis, Associate Director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who presented at the Conference, said 'I very much welcomed the opportunity to engage with INNSA and its members and all the other delegates who attended. There is a clear need for all property professionals to work together to help consumers and businesses identify and tackle invasive species.'
'I very much hope the new INNSA Code of practice will represent an important milestone in affording protection for property owners who are affected by invasive species. I look forward to working closely with INNSA and other reputable organisations to ensure that there is joined up thinking between surveyors and valuers and the specialist remediation community.'
INNSA is already planning for its 2016 Conference and will announce the date and location in the coming weeks.