Don’t get tied up in knots over Japanese Knotweed article banner image

Japanese Knotweed is a growing concern. What legislation covers this invasive species and what rights do you have if your property is affected by the plant spreading from a neighbouring property?

Japanese Knotweed - iStock_000029921218_Large

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Fallopia japonica (“Japanese Knotweed”) was first introduced to the UK by the Victorians as a decorative plant. However, it is now recognised as an Invasive Non-native Species (“INNS”) due to the problems it causes for landowners with its rapid growth and the significant costs associated with its removal.

INNS are problematic because they can:

(1) cause physical damage to buildings and land;

(2) be expensive and time-consuming to treat and dispose of;

(3) damage biodiversity by outcompeting native species of plants and animals; and

(4) result in both criminal and civil liabilities for owners, occupiers and persons who handle them.

What legislation covers this plant?

There are numerous pieces of legislation which govern the control of INNS, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (“WCA 1981”) and the Habitats Regulations 2010 (“Regulations”).

Schedule 9 to the WCA 1981 contains a list of various plants and animals with an INNS status that have become established in the wild in Great Britain. The legislation seeks to prevent the spread of INNS, including Japanese Knotweed.

Under the WCA 1981, it is a criminal offence to plant, or otherwise cause to grow in the wild, any plant that is listed in Part II of Schedule 9. This offence can, in extreme circumstances, attract a 2 year prison sentence and/or a substantial fine. Similar sanctions apply under the Regulations.

In addition to criminal liability, an owner or occupier of land should also be aware of the potential civil liability that can arise from failing to deal with Japanese Knotweed effectively.

What can you do if your property is affected by the plant spreading from a neighbour’s garden?

Landowners or occupiers are generally not required to remove, eradicate or treat Japanese Knotweed. Similarly, they are not usually required to notify any agency of its existence. However, failure to take reasonable measures to control the spread of Japanese Knotweed onto third party land may attract a claim for nuisance and a damages claim for: (1) the loss of enjoyment; (2) the costs of removal; and (3) a continuing injunction against re-infestation.

It is therefore imperative that landowners look to control the spread of knotweed so as to avoid a potential claim from a third party landowner.

If you discover Japanese Knotweed on your land it is always a good idea to seek professional advice as to what steps can be taken to minimise the spread of the plant and reduce the damage it may cause.

If you need assistance in dealing with any potential or existing civil liability relating to Japanese Knotweed, please do not hesitate to contact Ben Jones on 01872 265100 for an informal discussion.