HOUSING MANAGERS are being urged to put firm plans in place to control Japanese knotweed following a landmark court ruling.
Network Rail was last week ordered to pay compensation for damage caused to homes by the invasive weed spreading from its land.
And property experts are warning the case has the potential to alter the legal landscape for owners of public land.
The rail giant was taken to court after Japanese knotweed growing on a railway embankment spread to the foundations of nearby homes.
Neighbours in South Wales claimed the value of their properties has been badly affected by the destructive plant, which has roots which can force their way through existing weaknesses in brick and concrete.
In what is being seen as a key test case, the Government body was ordered to pay compensation along with the cost of treating the issue.
It is now reviewing the judgement but the Property Care Association – the national trade body which represents professionals in the invasive weed control industry – says it is likely to have major implications across the UK.
It says the case could encourage more homeowners to take similar action and is calling on other large landowners to be aware of the potential for problems.
Steve Hodgson, chief executive of the PCA, said: “This landmark ruling is one that could change the landscape for those responsible for tracts of public land such as local authorities, rail operators, developers and many more.
“Japanese knotweed is a destructive plant that can have a hugely damaging effect on the urban environment and any knotweed or other invasive species growing on their land could potentially spread to neighbouring properties.
“Homeowners living adjacent to public land could now be emboldened to take action too, so this puts the onus on squarely on landowners to control and remediate any issues, particularly near houses, as soon as they come to light.”
The PCA says it’s crucially important to appoint competent professionals who can assess the situation properly, draw up an appropriate management plan and deliver the required work.
Mr Hodgson added: “The species can be identified and treated with minimal impact, but its effective eradication is a job for the experts and I’d urge anyone who thinks they might have an issue to seek professional advice.”
The PCA set up the Invasive Weed Control group in 2012 to act as a source of competent and trained contractors and consultants.
Membership delivers an assurance of expertise in the control and management of Japanese knotweed and other invasive species, and demonstrates companies within the group are qualified to deliver efficient, effective and reliable treatment.
The PCA works extensively to raise standards in this area and has developed a comprehensive Code of Practice for the management of knotweed, to which all members adhere.
It has also produced technical guidance notes, including a guide providing a comprehensive picture of the main issues surrounding knotweed, and has a solid training portfolio on topics relating to the management of Japanese knotweed.
It includes training courses for professionals in the invasive weed industry and those developed for other professional audiences with an interest in the subject, such as local authorities and other public landowners.
A list of member companies within the Invasive Weed Control Group, together with the guide and details of training courses, are available to view via the PCA website www.property-care.org