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Public Relations Toolkit

Communications management to reduce knotweed impacts on staff time

Identification guides

Complaints scoping

Public guidance

Correct species identification is the first step to dramatically reducing the time cost generated by invasive plants.

To support The Wales Route treatment strategy, we also created a complete visual guide for Network Rail staff who work trackside. The guide helps staff to better identify different invasive knotweed species, the different types of knotweed regrowth after treatment, and also the species commonly mistaken for Japanese knotweed.

Misidentified knotweed and wasted site visits are extremely costly to large landowners

The visual guide provides examples of aboveground foliage and underground rhizome growth, replaces old guidance which contained errors and gave only limited examples of knotweed growth. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for managers and site ecologists to be able to quickly determine whether they were dealing with Japanese knotweed onsite, or not.

In 2017 our client received 390 complaints about knotweed - the impact on staff time alone was serious

To help managers understand the legal landscape, we also provided a complete summary of all the legislation and cases which in the aggregate form 'Japanese knotweed law'. Legalese can get pretty incomprehensible at times, so we also included a lay summary of key points for each of the main pieces of legislation.

Press coverage and social media commentary on the Williams case was especially negative, and not always the best informed. We designed a public relations toolkit answering the key questions lineside residents often have about knotweed treatment and the what Network Rail is doing to tackle the issue in Wales - the document was used by Network Rail's communities team to respond the 400 or so pending queries from residents concerned about knotweed.

Legal fees in the Williams & Waistell v Network Rail case about knotweed control, are estimated to be in excess of £1.5 million

The public relations toolkit also helps internal staff navigate the complex and confusing nomenclature of Japanese knotweed. Baffling people with archaic latin terminology only makes the problem worse, so we provided clear and practical tone of voice examples to help explain the knotweed issue to the public.

Overall, the knotweed treatment strategy, identification, legal and public relations work aims to harmonise the different approaches to knotweed management and provide a skeleton for more informed decision-making; one that will reduce the substantial impacts of invasive species for Network Rail, and in-turn their lineside residents.

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