Japanese knotweed is considered by many to be one of the most fast-growing, invasive plants in Britain. Having been initially imported from Eastern Asia for its pleasant appearance, with fleshy red stems and lush green leaves, it soon proved itself to be more of a menace than a delight. It has been known to grow up to 20 cm each day and is capable of growing through concrete and tarmac. Japanese knotweed is extremely difficult to annihilate once established and has caused many property values to decrease dramatically.
There has for some time been legislation in place regulating the spread and disposal of this plant. In an attempt to curb its escalation, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 criminalised the acts of planting Japanese Knotweed or causing it to grow in the wild. In addition, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 categorised Japanese knotweed as “controlled waste”, which means that it must be disposed of in an appropriate manner in order to avoid its regeneration. Yet it seems that these preventative measures have not been of great effect and steps have now been taken to combat the source of the problem.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 came into force on 20 October 2014 and includes provisions which can be applied in order to require the removal of Japanese knotweed by land owners. These laws give local authorities and police officers the power to impose “community protection notices” on any individual or organisation whose unreasonable conduct is having a persistent or continuing detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. Although there is no specific reference to Japanese knotweed, guidance released by the Home Office has indicated that allowing the plant to grow unchecked over your land or property will constitute such unreasonable conduct.
Community protection notices may impose requirements upon the individual or organisation to which it is issued, the most likely of which in this context would be to require the removal of the Japanese knotweed from the land or property within a certain period. Failure to comply with such a notice without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence and may result in a fine of as much as £2,500 for individuals and £20,000 for organisations. However, the very nature of this plant causes its removal to be extremely difficult and considerably expensive. A mere 8 mm piece of the plant left behind would be enough for it to regenerate so it is very important to ensure that every last fragment is removed in order to guarantee its complete eradication.
It should be noted that the 2014 Act does not apply only to residential property but to all other types of land as well. Consequently the provisions outlined above are relevant to all land owners.
In conclusion, Japanese knotweed is a highly undesirable plant to have on your land. Land owners are legally obliged to eradicate it as soon as possible, and it is in any event in their own best interests to do so in order to preserve the value of their land and prevent damage to buildings, structures and other plants. All land owners are therefore advised to be vigilant in looking out for Japanese knotweed and acting against it at the first sign of its presence.