Japanese knotweed: landowners, don’t get caught out!

Hayden Glynn, partner and property dispute specialist at Lupton Fawcett.
Hayden Glynn, partner and property dispute specialist at Lupton Fawcett.

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Landowners need to be aware of their obligations in relation to Japanese knotweed.

What is Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed is a dense, highly problematic weed. It is extremely fast-growing, invasive and can grow through concrete and tarmac causing structural damage to property. Unsurprisingly, these features make it difficult and expensive to eradicate.

What must landowners do?
- A person must not plant Japanese knotweed or otherwise cause it to grow in the wild. S14(2) Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
- A person must not dispose of Japanese knotweed, or knowingly cause or permit it to be disposed, without the requisite permit. S33(1) Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Breach of any of the above is a criminal offence punishable by a fine and, in some circumstances, imprisonment.

Recent Developments

In Williams v Network Rail, Mr Williams and Mr Waistell each owned a bungalow which backed onto land owned by Network Rail where Japanese knotweed had been present for 50 years. Mr Williams and Mr Waistell stated that the spread of Japanese knotweed from Network Rail’s land to their properties was a private nuisance. The Court said that, despite there being no physical damage to the properties, the presence of Japanese knotweed could seriously impact the market value of the properties. The fact that Network Rail had sprayed the Japanese knotweed with herbicide was insufficient because it had spread. Nuisance was established and Mr Williams and Mr Waistell were awarded damages to cover treatment of the Japanese knotweed, the diminution in value of their properties, and loss of amenity and interference with quiet enjoyment.

In Adam Smith and Eleanor Smith v Rosemary Line (2018), Mr and Mrs Smith brought a claim against their neighbour. They argued that Mrs Line had allowed Japanese knotweed to grow on her land which had spread to the Smiths’ driveway and it had reduced the value of their home by up to 10 per cent. The Court found that despite Mrs Line’s claims that she had sprayed the Japanese knotweed with herbicide and burnt it, she had allowed it to spread, and so found in the Smiths’ favour. The Court ordered Mrs Line to enter into a contract to eradicate the Japanese knotweed and pay the Smiths’ legal costs.

Summary

Do not get caught out. If you are a landowner with Japanese knotweed growing on your land take action to prevent loss to yourself and prevent local authorities, the police or your neighbours bringing criminal or civil action against you.

If you are a neighbour with Japanese knotweed which has spread onto your land, the easiest way to force the landowner responsible to take action could now be to bring a claim for private nuisance.

For further help or advice, please contact Partner and Property Dispute specialist Hayden Glynn on 0113 280 2032 or hayden.glynn@luptonfawcett.law