Japanese knotweed ruling could have implications for landowners

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Landowners are being urged to ensure they have plans in place to tackle Japanese knotweed after a court made a landmark ruling

A court ruling could change the way Japanese knotweed is tackled after a landowner was ordered to pay compensation.

Network Rail was told it must pay up after homes were damaged by the invasive weed, which spread from its land.

The case, property experts said, has the potential to change the playing field for public landowners, who could now be held liable for damages.

Court case

Network Rail were brought to court by neighbours in South Wales. They sued the rail firm for damages to the foundations of their homes, claiming Japanese knotweed growing on a railway embankment was to blame.

Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant that has the potential to cause structural problems for buildings. The roots can force through existing weaknesses in brick and concrete. The damages caused by the plant reportedly lowered the value of the neighbouring properties, and as a result Network Rail was ordered to pay compensation.

Plans need to be in place

The Property Care Association, which represents professionals in the invasive weed control industry, said the ruling would likely have major implications for UK landowners. The association warned the decision could see more homeowners come forward to take similar action.

Chief executive Steve Hodgson said: “This landmark ruling is one that could change the landscape for those responsible for tracts of public land.

“Japanese knotweed is a destructive plant that can have a hugely damaging effect on the urban environment and any knotweed or other invasive species growing on their land could potentially spread to neighbouring properties.

“Homeowners living adjacent to public land could now be emboldened to take action too, so this puts the onus on squarely on landowners to control and remediate any issues, particularly near houses, as soon as they come to light.”

Management

Plans must be in place to assess a situation where Japanese knotweed is growing. This, the PCA said, must be overseen by a competent professional who is able to draw up an appropriate management plan to deliver the necessary work.

Hodgson added: “The species can be identified and treated with minimal impact, but its effective eradication is a job for the experts and I’d urge anyone who thinks they might have an issue to seek professional advice.”

The PCA has worked to raise awareness of the plant and developed a Code of Practice for the management of knotweed for its member. In 2012 the association also set up the Invasive Weed Control group.

It also offers training courses for professionals in the invasive weed industry and those with an interest in the subject.

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