Japanese Knotweed and the law
In the UK, there are three main pieces of legislation that cover Japanese Knotweed. These are:
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
- Listed under Schedule 9, Section 14 of the Act, it is an offence to plant or otherwise cause the species to grow in the wild. It is the responsibility of the landowner to control these plants, but they don’t have to remove them as the natural growth of these plants and spread of the plants is not illegal. However, allowing the plants to spread onto land outside of the ownership or control of the landowner can be seen as an offence.
- Causing the plants to spread by removing or disposing of them incorrectly would be illegal.
- The police are responsible for investigating any offences and each police force has a wildlife liaison officer who can be contacted.
- An offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act can result in a criminal prosecution.
- If the police cant take action, a civil action may have to be taken against a person to ensure that the invasive plants on their land are controlled.
Environmental Protection Act 1990
- Japanese Knotweed is classed as ‘controlled waste’ and as such must be disposed of safely at a licensed landfill site according to the Environmental Protection Act (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991. Soil containing rhizome material can be regarded as contaminated and, if taken off a site, must be disposed of at a suitably licensed landfill site and buried to a depth of at least five metres.
- 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. You can also be held liable for costs incurred from the spread of Knotweed into adjacent properties and for the disposal of infested soil off site during development which later leads to the spread of Knotweed onto another site.
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: anti-social behaviour
- Local councils and the police (in most cases it will be the local council) have the power to issue notices for invasive non-native species like Japanese Knotweed. Note that in Devon this refers to the District Councils or Unitary Councils, such as Torbay and Plymouth, but not Devon County Council. The notice can place restrictions on a person’s behaviour and, if necessary, force them to take steps to rectify the behaviour that is having a detrimental effect on the community.
- This means if an individual, or organisation, is not controlling Japanese Knotweed or other invasive plant and could reasonably be expected to do so, the notice could be used to get them to stop the anti-social behaviour.
- The notice could include a requirement to stop a specified action or behaviour, or a requirement to take reasonable steps to prevent future occurrence of the problem. Breach of any requirement of a community protection notice would be a criminal offence, subject to a fixed penalty notice or prosecution. For more information go to the Home Office’s webpages on Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act: anti-social behaviour.