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A new regime to tackle knotweed

The Law Commission recommends a new approach to control invasive species

Amidst growing public concern – and expense – surrounding invasive plants and animals, it has been recommended that a new regime of species control orders should be brought in. This would allow a relevant body[1] to order a party to carry out a programme to control or eradicate an alien species, or allow a relevant body itself to deal with the operations.

In ‘Wildlife Law: Control of Invasive Non-native Species’, the Law Commission emphasises that this would be a last resort – only used where bodies cannot agree on a programme of control and eradication. But it highlights that existing law does not do enough to guarantee effective solutions where agreement is impossible, and so species control orders should be introduced in order to help in preventing further threat to biodiversity and the economy.

As a non-native and invasive plant, Japanese knotweed falls under the recommendations of the Law Commission. This means that if a neighbour refuses to deal with knotweed encroaching on your property, you may not have only a civil claim against them in future: a relevant body could compel your neighbour to tackle the problem.

Homeowners, however, will not be at the complete mercy of these bodies: it is advised that a proportionality test be applied to each situation, and the owner or occupier will have a right to appeal to a tribunal.

The Law Commission is a statutory independent body that reviews the law of England and Wales and, following public consultation, recommends reforms to Parliament. They aim to ensure that the law is fair, modern, simple, and as cost-effective as possible. With roughly 68% of their law reform recommendations enacted, the Law Commission’s report puts pressure on the Government to deal with an issue affecting so many.

Nicholas Paines QC, who took the lead on the project, stated: ‘Some invasive plants and animals [are] capable of causing significant damage to property and costing a great deal to control and remove. It is in everyone’s interest if the relevant governmental bodies and landowners can reach an agreement that allows for invasive non-native species to be eradicated or controlled.’

The Government has yet to respond to the report, but with the EU taking action to help prevent the spread of invasive species (click here for ‘EU takes aim at knotweed’) and the Law Commission highlighting the need for action by our Parliament, it is getting increasingly more difficult for our politicians and policymakers to look the other way.

If you have any questions regarding Japanese Knotweed and the Law, call free on 0203 151 5205 and speak with one of our team today.

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[1] The Law Commission recommends that the ‘relevant bodies’ should be the Secretary of State, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commissioners in England; and the Welsh Ministers and Natural Resources Wales in Wales.

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