A court ruling regarding Japanese knotweed has been described as “landmark” by the Property Care Association (PCA).
Neighbours and homeowners in Maesteg, South Wales, Robin Waistell and Stephen Williams took on Network Rail after the plant, growing on a railway embankment next to their bungalows, spread into the foundations of their homes.
The plant’s roots can force their way through brick and concrete, and it is difficult and expensive to eradicate them.
Mr Wasitell or Mr Williams argued that a failure to eradicate knotweed was “causing a substantial and unreasonable interference with a claimant’s land, his use or enjoyment of that land”.
They told Cardiff County Court that the value of their properties had almost halved due to the plant’s invasion and they could not sell their homes because lenders will not give mortgages to properties affected by knotweed.
Results of the Case
The Court ordered the rail giant to pay £4,320 to each claimant to treat the knotweed and also awarded £10,000 to each in damages for the fall in value of their homes. Crucially, the Judge indicated that, if the knotweed was not eradicated, Mr Waistell and Mr Williams could claim for the full drop in the value of their homes.
Network Rail has said it is now reviewing the judgment but has not said whether it will appeal. Their spokesperson said: “We are continually reviewing our processes for controlling Japanese knotweed. This includes working closely with experts within Network Rail and with third-party organisations.”
PCA chief executive Steve Hodgson says: “In any event, what this judgement will do is empower people with similar situations to bring action against their neighbours…”
Japanese Knotweed Solutions chief executive Mike Clough says: “The case should result in a lot more work for Japanese Knotweed contractors…I would imagine it is not all over yet – there is going to be some continued argument.”
The Government looked into a national eradication programme in 2015 but the estimated cost of £1.5bn was deemed too expensive by ministers.
Changes to the Legal Landscape
The PCA, which represents weed-control contractors, says the case has the potential to alter the legal landscape for owners of public land, although it is too early to tell whether it will set a legal precedent as that depends on the result of any potential appeal by Network Rail.