Philippa Rudd - EDP Property Column. Japanese Knotweed

I own a plot of land that I hope to develop one day. It is overgrown and a friend who was visiting told me that it looked as if I had some “Japanese Knotweed” taking over in one corner. He said I would need a licence to remove it. Can you tell me more please?

Japanese Knotweed was brought to Britain as an ornamental garden plant in the mid-nineteenth century. Since then it has become widespread in the wild and causes serious problems by smothering native flora and causing structural damage to buildings - for example by growing through drains, foundations and tarmac and even through the floors of houses.

How can I identify the weed?

Japanese Knotweed dies back in late October each year, leaving only dead brown hollow canes as an above ground sign of its presence. Each spring, in late March, the rhizome system starts to throw up new shoots, which look like asparagus on emergence. These shoots grow rapidly, reaching two metres by the end of May and three to four metres by the end of June; they are identifiable by their bamboo like nature and fleshy green/red tinged colour. The leaves are light green and heart shaped and in late August the plant produces clusters of small, cream flowers.

Do I have any legal responsibilities for Japanese Knotweed in my garden?

While there is no statutory requirement for landowners to remove the plant from their property, because of its potential harm to native species it is listed on Schedule 9 and subject to section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - which makes it an offence to plant, or cause this species to grow, in the wild. Both the police and local authorities have enforcement functions for the 1981 Act. In addition, Japanese Knotweed is regarded as controlled waste and has to be disposed of at licensed sites or by burning on site.

How do I remove the Knotweed?

There are only three ways of removal: by excavation, biological control or chemical spraying.  Your local council or the Environment Agency may be able to advise you or you can contact a specialist removal company.


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