Knot on my turf! Japanese knotweed and nuisance

by | Aug 31, 2017 | Blog Posts

Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant whose roots can extend up to 3 metres deep and 7 metres in all directions. This can cause great damage to land and buildings.
Its growth is so aggressive that it is an offence to introduce it in the wild. You could be fined or even sent to prison if you allow plants or contaminated soil to spread into the wild! Unfortunately, however, it can also be expensive and time consuming to destroy.
If you are aware that there is Japanese knotweed on your land it is advisable to speak to an expert. If it spreads on to a neighbour’s land, the neighbour may have a claim against you in nuisance.

Nuisance

Nuisance can be split into three categories:

  • Private nuisance. This is usually caused by someone doing something lawful on their own land but which affects their neighbour by interfering with their quiet enjoyment of their land and property. We give some more examples of private nuisance in our earlier article.
  • Public nuisance. This is caused by acts which risk health, property, morals or comfort of the public or stop people using public places
  • Statutory nuisance

Remedies for nuisance

Remedies for nuisance include prohibitory and/or mandatory injunctions. In some instances, damages may be awarded instead of an injunction. We discussed prohibitory injunctions in an earlier blog which can be found here.

Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd

Earlier this year, there was a new County Court decision on private nuisance relating to Japanese knotweed.
Mr Williams and Mr Waistell (who were neighbours) each brought claims against Network Rail for private nuisance. They alleged that the roots of Japanese knotweed on Network Rail’s land had spread on to their land. They alleged that it had spread to the foundations of the properties and affected their ability to sell the properties. The knotweed had been growing on Network Rail’s land for approximately 50 years and Network Rail had knowledge of this.
Both neighbours claimed for injunctions to remedy the Japanese knotweed, and damages in lieu of the injunction.
The matter was heard at the County Court in Cardiff. The court held that the knotweed’s roots had spread onto the claimants’ land. However, the judge noted that this did not mean there was a claim, unless there was physical damage. The judge went on to decide that there was an actionable nuisance, however, because the mere presence of the knotweed had affected the ability to sell the property and had diminished the value of the property.
The court did not grant a mandatory injunction requiring the Defendant to destroy the knotweed. Instead, it granted damages to the Claimants for the cost of surveyors, insurance, diminution in value of the properties and general loss for quiet enjoyment of the properties.

Floodgates

There is a potential that the floodgates may now open as it appears from this decision, that a neighbour may have a nuisance claim if Japanese knotweed is in close proximity to their property. However, we understand that Network Rail have appealed the Court’s decision and we will keep our blog updated with any further news.
If you have a nuisance claim, our property disputes team can help. Call us today on 0800 988 7756 for a FREE no obligation consultation.
Japanese knotweed

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