Court of Appeal: landowners can claim damages
Landowners will be able to claim damages if Japanese knotweed has encroached on their property, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Judges ruled in favour of two householders whose properties had been affected by the ‘pernicious’ plant.
The plant, which grows quickly and strongly and spreads through underground rhizomes, can undermine the structural integrity of buildings and is expensive to treat.
Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell, who own bungalows in Llwydarth Road, Maesteg, South Wales, made a claim against Network Rail – which owns the land behind their homes.
Weed on land for 50 years
Japanese knotweed has been present on Network Rail’s land at that spot for at least 50 years and the pair first complained about it on their land in 2013.
They made a successful claim against Network Rail at Cardiff County Court and were awarded damages in February 2017.
Network Rail challenged the decision at a Court of Appeal hearing, but the court ruled that the homeowners were entitled to damages because the plants’ rhizomes had extended beneath their properties.
Announcing the decision, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton said: “Japanese knotweed, and its roots and rhizomes, does not merely carry the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations on the land.
Not entitled to damages
“Its presence imposes an immediate burden on landowners who face an increased difficulty in their ability to develop, and in the cost of developing their land, should they wish to do so, because of the difficulties and expense of eradicating Japanese knotweed.
“In this way, Japanese knotweed can fairly be described as a natural hazard which affects landowners’ ability fully to use and enjoy their property and, in doing so, interferes with the land’s amenity value.”
However, the judge said the homeowners would not be entitled to damages because the knotweed had reduced the value of their properties.
Network Rail was refused permission to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court.