Financial & Legal News

Landowners must take responsibility for knotweed

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Japanese knotweed, or Fallopia Japonica to use its formal name, was originally brought to Wales from East Asia. Once highly regarded for its beauty, it has spread throughout the UK and is having a devastating effect on plant biodiversity and hard structures alike. It has become a curse for all those unfortunate enough to find it on or near their land.

Robin Waistell is one of those unlucky ones. He lives in a bungalow in South Wales next to a railway embankment. Hoping to move, he soon discovered that prospective buyers of his house could not secure a mortgage: Japanese knotweed had taken over 600 square metres of the nearby embankment and lenders were refusing to lend money for the purchase.

Unable to sell, Mr Waistell was effectively grounded by the knotweed. He asked Network Rail Infrastructure Limited, the owners of the embankment to treat the knotweed - which they did a few times but unsuccessfully. Mr Waistell's only recourse was to take action against Network Rail for compensation.

In what is regarded as a landmark ruling, the High Court considered the knotweed to be a nuisance. The court ordered Network Rail to pay compensation to Mr Waistell for the devaluation of his home as well as to cover the cost of treating the knotweed. The cost of that treatment is to be supported by an insurance-backed guarantee to cover the eventuality that the knotweed returns.

This decision is considered a test case on who is responsible for treating Japanese knotweed and will bring hope to many in a similar position living next to knotweed infested railway embankments.

Guidance on how to control Japanese knotweed

The government looked into the knotweed issue a couple of years ago but concluded that wholesale eradication measures would be too expensive. Trials are currently being conducted in South Wales on eradicating the plant through the controlled release of Japanese insects which feed on it.

Government guidance on how to prevent Japanese knotweed from spreading was issued in 2016 and includes guidance on how to identify, control and dispose of it.

If you find knotweed on your land, take careful notice of the eradication guidance.

Those who have knotweed or other invasive plants on their land should pay attention not just to the Waistell judgment but also to their responsibility to prevent Japanese knotweed on their land from spreading into the wild and causing a nuisance. Note also that owners of land on which knotweed grows could be fined up to £5,000 or be sent to prison for up to 2 years if they allow contaminated soil or plant material from any waste they transfer to spread into the wild.


If the value of your home has been affected by Japanese knotweed or you have a dispute with your neighbour about a nuisance coming from their land, contact Christopher Burke on 0161 785 3500 or make an enquiry.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Christopher Burke


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