A Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam removal effort could lead to the arrest of a 62-year-old grandfather. Mr Alan Baines has in the past 18 months been maintaining Rayner Park in Hindley town in Wigan. He has been collecting litter and removing debris as well as cutting down overgrown Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed.

Mr Baines has now received a letter signed by the Wigan’s council assistant director of legal services, Brendan Whitworth ordering him to cease the cutting down of the vegetation. According to the letter, the 62-year-old will be reported to the police for criminal damage followed by an injunction sought by the council to ban him from the park.

Mr Baines who works with the NHS as a caretaker was disgusted, amazed and disappointed. He says what he has done is equivalent to six months of work that would have cost the council tens of thousands of pounds. According to the grandfather, who has over 400 people in a Facebook group that back him, the park has improved vastly in the past 18 months he has been tending it.

Baines, a resident of Hindley who has been involved in the Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam removal said the Council has been aware of his efforts. He even met with a council officer at the park in August besides using the Reportlt app to request them to remove cuttings. His efforts are now the focus of the council’s concern.

In response, a council spokesman said the Council has been aware of an unauthorised habitat works in the Rayner Park without its knowledge or consent. The spokesperson said interfering with the Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed classes as a criminal offence and the plants have a potential to damage the environment. The plants should definitely be disposed of by a registered waste carrier and correct safety measures should be employed.

The Council according to the spokesman is committed to working with the local community to keep parks and green spaces enjoyable for all to use but they have in place procedures to safeguard the habitat as well as the individuals operating on site. The council has instructed for all interference of the plants to stop as a way to ensure environmental issues do not arise and maintain the safety of the local community.

The remaining knotweed will be considered to be part of the ongoing programme for the invasive plants by the council and concerned residents should make reports of the vegetation issues in the park through the Reportlt app by the Wigan’s Council. Mr Baines has since ceased the Himalayan balsam removal but keeps collecting the litter. He, however, fears that the plants will grow back and all his hard work will be for nothing.