Network Rail loses legal battle against Japanese Knotweed

Picture of Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed the subject of legal wrangle with Network Rail

Following a Court of Appeal ruling, Network Rail has lost its appeal over damages that could enable land owners to claim damages if Japanese Knotweed encroaches onto their land.

Property owner Stephen Williams, and his neighbour Robin Waistell, fought for four years against Network Rail which owns the land adjacent to their homes in Maesteg, South Wales. Mr Waistell had returned to his bungalow from Spain after his wife died but the property became overwhelmed with Knotweed, which towered over the bungalow from the railway embankment.

The home owner had sought compensation of £60,000 which would cover the loss of value to his home, but was awarded £15,000. A third of the compensation was intended to pay for an insurance-backed guarantee on the herbicide programme used to tackle the Knotweed problem.

Although Network Rail’s legal costs had already run into six figures, it appealed the judgement. Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, concluded that Japanese Knotweed “does not merely carry the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations” but “imposes an immediate burden on land owners”.

The Court of Appeal ruling means landowners can claim damages if Japanese Knotweed has encroached on their property.

Japanese Knotweed was first introduced by the Victorians who, as keen gardeners, valued its 3-4m stems, ornamental leaves and attractive white flowers. The first Japanese Knotweed to be found in the wild was discovered in Maesteg in the 1880s.

Ironically, a new study into Japanese Knotweed by the University of Leeds and engineeering firm, AECOM, has found that there is no evidence that the plant is more of a threat to buildings than any other species of plant. The Knotweed roots, that can grow up to 10cm per day in the summer, are purported to penetrate concrete and undermine foundations, but the new evidence shows it is more likely to go around structures.

Read more on the threat of Japanese Knotweed and how to deal with it.

A surveyor will check for signs of Japanese Knotweed, enabling you to be fully informed when you purchase a property. Avoid costly errors by contacting your local Property Surveying independent Chartered Surveyor.


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