Japanese knotweed is continuing to cause havoc all around the UK, and in the latest upset, the highly invasive plant species has resulted in a large fine being handed out to a property owner who failed to control an infestation of the weed and allowed it to spread to a number of neighbouring properties.
The case came about after Bristol City Council slapped a Community Protection Notice against property developer MB Estate Ltd, after it was reported that a house the company owns became infested with Japanese knotweed. It happened after the fast-growing plant started springing up and growing in the gardens of seven neighbouring properties.
The notice was based on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which doesn't explicitly mention Japanese knotweed and the potential harms it can cause, but it can be interpreted to include the weed because it causes damage to community environments and nuisance or annoyance to people living in them. MB Estate Ltd was found to be the source of the infestations, from its nearby property, and the firm was hit with a £18,000 fine plus costs in the case.
What Is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese knotweed arrived in the UK in the early part of the 1800s. Why, you might ask, bring something into the country that can cause so much destruction? It's because back then, Japanese knotweed was seen as an ornamental plant and upper-class Victorians who prized aesthetics and the finer things in life — including exotic plants from the Orient — adored its dainty leaves and flowers — and they lapped it up. Until, that is, their Japanese knotweeds grew out of control and were practically uncontainable. They then cast them out into the wild, where they’ve been growing out of control ever since.
The problem for properties is that Japanese knotweed not only grows so quickly — up to 20 cm in a day during peak growing season — but that it can also interfere with underground piping and grow into and through cracks in walls and driveways. This can make houses almost impossible to sell, and mortgage companies won't usually approve a new loan if a surveyor spots it growing in the garden or elsewhere on a property.
And as we can see from the recent Bristol example, failure to contain an outbreak of Japanese knotweed on a property can result in prosecution and substantial fines. You can also be penalised financially if you dig up Japanese knotweed growing in your garden and don't properly dispose of it. Just throwing it away in the nearest landfill or elsewhere will almost certainly see it spring back to life there and the site will soon become infested.
How Can You Eradicate Japanese Knotweed?
The temptation when you have Japanese knotweed somewhere on your property is to think you can get rid of it yourself, as it's "just a weed". This couldn’t be further from the truth, which is that Japanese knotweed is practically impossible to eradicate on your own. Countless people all over the UK try this every year — with weedkillers, dig-outs and more — and yet the problem just does not go away.
That's because Japanese knotweed has a large root system that grows out wide and deep. If you try to dig it all out of the ground, chances are some parts will remain, and they will start regenerating and the weed will begin sending up new shoots, causing the same trouble all over again. The only effective way to carry out Japanese knotweed removal is to call in the pros as soon as you see the problematic shoots springing up.
A company that specialises in Japanese knotweed removal will use powerful herbicides over a number of growing seasons to kill off an infestation. If a quicker eradication is required, they have expert dig-out solutions, which ensure all the roots are removed from the ground. They will also usually provide an insurance-backed guarantee of five or up to ten years. Hopefully, that will be the last time you ever have to deal with this scourge of a plant and its destructive ways.