Japanese Knotweed & The Law - TP Knotweed Solutions

Japanese Knotweed & The Law

Japanese Knotweed is posing threats to UK homeowners, business owners and public services providers. The invasive plant has corrupted development sites, caused mortgage lenders to re-think their willingness to make loans on properties infected and is causing municipalities to increase spending in order to protect water and sewer lines. In short, Japanese Knotweed is posing social and economic problems wherever it is; a fact lawmakers continue to address.

In the UK, lawmakers have implemented new legislation in efforts to control the spread of knotweed. Presently, the UK Government is experimenting with possible solutions but public laws relative to Japanese Knotweed are in place and the citizenry is required to comply.

There are two primary laws in place to regulate the spread of Japanese Knotweed. The Environmental Protection Act of 1990 and The Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Environmental Protection Act of 1990

In the 1990 Environmental Protection Act (EPA), Japanese Knotweed is identified as a controlled substance. This act sets forth certain terms that regulate how Japanese Knotweed can be disposed. The act stipulates that Japanese Knotweed can only be disposed of at landfills that are licensed to handle contaminated soil. The individual or organisation that has collected the knotweed is responsible for identifying a licensed landfill and transporting the knotweed to the licensed handler.


The duty of care for persons who produce, import, dispose of or treat controlled waste is detailed in Article 34 of the EPA. Article 34 was added to the EPA in 1991 and states that soil containing rhizome, like Japanese Knotweed, should be regarded as contaminated and handled according to EPA standards.

Article 34 clearly states that when contaminated soil is moved from the site, it must be covered by waste transfer notes. In these notes, the waste must be described. When transported to a licensed landfill, the transfer notes must be signed by the shipping and receiving parties.

The shipping party must be specific enough in the soil description that the landfill handlers know what they are dealing with and how to dispose of it. The handling and transport provisions are described in detail article 34 also known as the Environmental Protection Act (Duty of Care) 1991.

Under Section 33 of the EPA, “It is an offence to deposit, treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste without a license.” The exceptions to this protocol are detailed under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994.

Clarification of the policy is offered under the Environment Agency Code of Practice 2006.

This law deals with the Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and states that the failure to have a management license or permit when trying to eradicate Japanese Knotweed on site is not an offence to be prosecuted. This provision allows developers, business owners or homeowners to treat the knotweed without a license.

The use of pesticides to control the spread of Japanese Knotweed is explained in the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986. Under this law, persons who use pesticides are obligated to take all reasonable precautions to protect the creatures, plants and persons who might come in contact with the pesticides.

It is also an offence to allow knotweed to spread from your property to another. In the event this occurs, the property owner who allowed the knotweed to expand onto another property can be held responsible and subject to third party litigation of civil prosecution.

Under Environmental Agency Code of Practice 2006, not treating and disposing of the invasive plant in a legal, responsible manner can be interpreted to be a violation of the law. The bottom line is that in the UK it is illegal to not take responsible actions to eradicate the plant if it is on your commercial or residential property.

Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981

The Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 was approved by an Act of Parliament in order to give protection to native species and regulate the spread of non-native plants and animals in the UK. This is important legislation that strives to atone for errors made in the past, including the import of the invasive Japanese Knotweed species. The act sets forth specific guidance for the spread of non-native species that have caused serious problem with the UK, its environment and its infrastructure.

The act contains three parts, an additional Part IV that contains Miscellaneous and General wildlife guidance and a number of important schedules and amendments. Since its adoption, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 has been regularly monitored and amended.

Part I includes section 1 through to 27 of the law. It details provisions for the protection of wild birds, their eggs and nests and for the protection of plants. It is clear under these provisions that the introduction of non-native plant species to the UK is banned. A list of the banned plant species is included in Part II, schedule 9.

Under provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, “Plant refers to species in the kingdom Planate.” Schedule 9 also sets forth specific Fungi and Algae species that are non-native and existing in the UK.

This “legislation aims to prevent the planting of Schedule 9 listed plant material in the wild where it then poses a threat to our native biodiversity and ecosystems.” Such is the case of a number of Japanese Knotweed species.

According to Schedule 9, the following species were added by variation 609;
• Japanese Knotweed – Fallopia japonica – Added by variation 609 in 2010.
• Giant Knotweed – Fallopia sachalinensis – Added by variation 609 in 2010.
• Hybrid Knotweed – Fallopia japonica x Fallopia sachalinensis – Added by variation 609 in 2010.

Under terms of this part, the planting of these non-native species is a crime and punishable by rather serious penalties including severe fines. The severity of this violation is best depicted by language in the section:

“We consider that planting in the wild would constitute intentionally placing viable plant material in or on suitable medium so that it can grow. This can include, for example, whole plants, seeds, rhizomes, bulbs, corms and cuttings.”

The law also makes clear how UK residents should manage these plants when they exist in their own confines. It is clear that the existence of these plants and especially strains of Japanese Knotweed is not only causing damage to the ecosystem but to the country’s infrastructure and building industry. Many public water and sewer pipes have been invaded by the plant’s extend and virile roots. Once inside a pipe of foundation, there is no stopping the spread of the species.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states: “We would expect that where plants listed in Schedule 9 are grown in private gardens, larger scale gardens, estates and amenity areas, etc. reasonable measures will be taken to confine them to the cultivated areas so as to prevent their spreading to the wider environment and beyond the landowner’s control. It is our view that any failure to do so, which in turn results in the plant spreading to the wild, could be considered as ‘causing to grow in the wild’ and as such would constitute an offence.”

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