In less than 100 years after being introduced in the UK, Japanese Knotweed was referred to as a plant that is “easier to plant than to get rid of in the garden” in the 1907 edition of ‘The English Flower Garden’ by John Murray. Japanese Knotweed legislation becomes stronger nationwide and in the EC to limit fast spreading of this invasive plant. Currently, there are several main pieces of legislation in the UK that cover Japanese Knotweed and the options to efficiently control it.
It is not an offense to have Japanese Knotweed on the owner’s land and local authority should normally not be noticed if the plant is present. However, the owner must take necessary actions to prevent the plant from spreading to the neighbouring property site since this can be regarded as nuisance and may cause civil matter. ASBO rules are now applicable according to the recent Japanese Knotweed legislation. The owner may be sued by the neighbour in the civil court if there is the evidence of spreading the plant on the neighbour’s land that may potentially cause damage to the property or other buildings on the site. In this event, it is strongly advised to discuss with the owner his obligations first since legal actions may be risky and expensive.
This is the principal legislation dealing with non-native species. Section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981) states that “…if any person plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild any plant which is included in Part II of Schedule 9, he shall be guilty of an offense.” Japanese Knotweed is one of the plants listed in Schedule 9. Anyone convicted of an offense under Section 14 of the WCA 1981 may face a fine of £5,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment, or 2 years and/or an unlimited fine on indictment. Please follow this link to read a full-text document.
These Regulations implement the control of pesticides in general, including those employed for treatment of Japanese Knotweed. The application of pesticides must be accompanied by appropriate precautions to protect people and wildlife. Approval from the local statutory agency must be obtained prior to applying pesticides near or in water. You can find a full-text document here.
Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The Act contains a number of legal provisions concerning “controlled waste”, which are set out in Part II. Japanese knotweed is classed as ‘controlled waste’ and, subsequently, the any plant materials and the Japanese Knotweed contaminated soil must be disposed of safely at a licensed landfill site according to the Environmental Protection Act (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991. The disposal must be accompanied by appropriate waste transfer documentation. Soil contaminated with the plant material must be buried at a suitably licensed landfill site to a depth of at least 5 m. An infringement under the Environmental Protection Act can result in enforcement action being taken by the Environment Agency which can result in an unlimited fine. Full document may be found here.
The regulations contain provisions about the handling and movement of hazardous waste. Untreated Japanese knotweed is not classed as hazardous waste. However, the material containing Japanese Knotweed that has been treated with certain herbicides may be classed as hazardous waste. Special measures must be undertaken for transferring the material, accompanied by the notes about the hazardous properties and any special handling requirements. Failure to comply the Regulations may lead to legal action. Click here to read the Regulations in full.
This instrument transposes the requirements of Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides (“the Directive”) for the United Kingdom. It includes requirement for the United Kingdom to adopt a National Action Plan and provisions aimed at achieving the sustainable use of pesticides by reducing risks and impacts of their use on human health and the environment. Full-text document is available at the official website.
The Act does not explicitly refer to Japanese Knotweed or other, similar invasive non-native plants, as the new anti-social behaviour powers are intended to be flexible. However, frontline professionals can stop or prevent any behaviour that meets the legal test in the powers. The notice can be used to require someone to control or prevent the growth of Japanese Knotweed or other plants that are capable of causing serious problems to communities. The test is that the conduct of the individual or body is having a detrimental effect of a persistent or continuing nature on the quality of life of those in the locality, and that the conduct is unreasonable. Under section 57 of the Act, “conduct” includes “a failure to act”. Want to know more about ASBO that is now applied to Japanese Knotweed? Follow this link to find more information.
This act was introduced because existing law did not contain sufficient powers to allow for timely and effective control or eradication of invasive non-native species.
The Infrastructure Act 2015 will give the relevant environmental authorities in England and Wales the power to issue the species control orders. These orders will make it possible to compel land owners or occupiers to carry out control or eradication operations, or allow them to be carried out by the issuing authority. Breaching a species control order will be a criminal offense, but owners or occupiers will have the right to appeal to a tribunal and, where relevant, may be compensated for any damage caused by the eradication work. Visit the official website for full-text version of the Act.
Note, that operation under ‘Grandfather rules exemption’ is no longer allowed since 26th November 2015. If you were born before 31 December 1964 you are not allowed to apply professional pesticides on your land unless you hold a recognised certificate. In addition, anyone purchasing a professional product must ensure that the intended end-user holds relevant certificate. Download pdf document (2 MB) to learn more.