Court of Appeal Judgment on Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed grows quickly and strongly and spreads through its underground roots and can undermine the structural integrity of buildings. It is extremely expensive to treat.

Robin Waistell and Stephen Williams who own two adjoining bungalows in South Wales made a claim in negligence against Network Rail. Network Rail owns the property directly behind their houses. The plant had been present on the land for at least fifty years and the men first complained about the encroachment into their property in 2013. They brought a successful claim against Network Rail and were awarded damages. Network Rail appealed to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal recently handed down a Judgment ruling that the homeowners were entitled to damages because the plant’s roots or rhizomes had extended beneath both of their properties.

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, said in his Judgement “Japanese Knotweed and its roots or rhizomes does not merely carry the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations of the land. 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 from affected land.”

He went on to say “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 lands’ amenity value.”

Therefore, landowners will be able to claim damages if the “pernicious” Japanese Knotweed has encroached onto their property. The Court refused to give Network Rail permission to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court. To establish a claim there must be encroachment and physical damage. If you have been affected by the encroachment of Japanese Knotweed please do not hesitate to contact our office.