Market Insight

Don’t get tied up in knots over knotweed – nip it in the bud

July 11, 2017

A recent legal case (Williams & Waistell v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd) has once again brought the issue of the dreaded Japanese Knotweed (JKW) to the fore.

In the case, Network Rail was ordered to pay damages to two bungalow owners for ignoring a JKW invasion on one of its railway embankments in south Wales.

JKW is a pernicious, invasive weed and can cause particular damage to drains, paving, garden walls, outbuildings, and other plants if not dealt with.

Not only this, if found on your land or property, it can have a significant damaging effect on its value and future saleability.

So if you own a property and you’re worried about a JNW invasion, here’s what you need to know.

Why is this case important?

The case made against Network Rail is significant because even though the JKW had not damaged the foundations or any other part of the bungalows, the owners were still able to make a successful claim.

This is because the JKW had been present on Network Rail’ embankment for a number of years, but despite being aware of the danger posed to surrounding properties, the company had failed to take action to remove it.

As a result, the presence of JKW had stigmatised the two properties, affecting their future marketability.

Because Network Rail knowingly delayed treating the JKW, they were judged to be in breach of their duty and had to pay £10,000 to each property owner, as well as £4,320 to treat the problem, and £350 a year in general damages.

So how does this affect you?

This case has set a precedent that landowners and occupiers mustn’t ignore.

If you knowingly overlook the presence of JNW on your land and it spreads to another landowner or property, you could be made liable for damages and the cost to remediate the land.

This can prove to be a costly process, depending on the extent of the JNW invasion. Not only this, if the plant spreads from your property into the wild, this is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and you could face prosecution.

If you discover JKW

If you think that you have JKW on your land, the best thing that you can do is seek professional help to remove it.

Whilst it can be dug up or treated chemically, the root systems are extensive (up to 22 ft) and spread underground, so regrowth can often occur.

What is more, soil contaminated by JKW has to be removed under licence, so it’s best to act early on and get the professionals in – consider it an investment in the long term.

And remember, if you bury your head in the sand and knowingly ignore the problem, it could cost you a significant amount more than if you nip it in the bud.

For help and advice in relation to this issue, don’t hesitate to get in touch.