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9 August 2017

King West

The Peril of Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed is at its peak growth in the summer. Read this month’s article to learn more about this pest, which carries with it the possibility of an ASBO if the rules are not followed. 

It is a well-known fact that Japanese knotweed is a menace. Those owning the property where it has made its home may be forgiven for frustration and despair. The threat that Japanese knotweed (also known as Fallopia japonica) presents, has led to the plant being listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is now regarded as the primary invasive weed in the UK.

Able to thrive in virtually any soil and landscape across the UK, Japanese knotweed lacks any natural predators and is able to take over vast areas of land remarkably quickly, growing up to 1 metre per week.

Extensive damage to buildings, foundations, walls, pavements, roads and even services are magnified by knotweed’s ability to enter structures through its underground stem system or rhizomes.

 The damage caused by its roots and stems costs the economy around £166 million every year in weed control and property devaluation.

Without exception, mortgage lenders do not like this type of threat and thus will refuse lending on properties impacted by the weed, unless the owners have invested in a management plan by an accredited specialist. Recent powers assigned to councils and police forces enable the service of Community Protection Notices against individuals or organisations that allow knotweed to spread from their property into neighbouring homes or land.

Preventing the spread of knotweed falls at the feet of all of us, especially for those owning the land upon which it is growing. Failure to manage an outbreak could result in criminal prosecution through the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. The outcome of non-compliance may be a fine of £20,000 or even imprisonment for six months.

The duty of disposal falls to the owner of the land from which the waste was produced which cannot be in the bin, or with other waste as it is designated as controlled waste.  If invasive weeds are allowed to spread, a Private Nuisance Claim can be made or a Community Enforcement Notice can be placed on the owner of the land. In a recent court case, the owner of land from which Japanese knotweed had spread onto neighbouring properties was held liable for damages based on the reduction in value of those properties and the costs of dealing with the knotweed. The damages ran to tens of thousands of pounds plus legal costs, even though no actual damage had been caused to the properties onto which the knotweed had spread.

When selling a residential property, a vendor must declare the presence of  Japanese knotweed on the site or within 7 meters of it. As a property sale is a legal transaction, legal action would be undertaken following a false declaration.

If you are looking for advice to manage, or to buy or sell a property that may be affected by Japanese knotweed, in the first instance, contact Harry Epsom on 01858 435 970 or email hepsom@kingwest.co.uk.

 

 

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