EU takes aim at knotweed!

Just last month, the EU took action to prevent the further spread of invasive alien species – with Japanese knotweed squarely located between the crosshairs.

Although Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica) originates from Eastern Asia, it was brought over to the UK in the nineteenth century to be used as an innocent ornamental garden plant.  Its spread –since then has been unprecedented, creating structural and financial woes for people buying and selling houses around the UK.

The EU has finally recognised the environmental damage Japanese knotweed is causing. While legislation will not specifically target knotweed, it will ban species of ‘Union concern’ – a label undeniably befitting of the dreaded knotweed.  Having had the backing of EU member states it is likely that the legislation will come into effect in 2016.  It will target the possession, transport, selling or growing of species of concern. Invasive non-native species account for approximately £1.7 billion of ecological and economic damage every year in the UK. Knotweed plays no small part in this figure; it is estimated that knotweed costs the country £166 million annually.

By backing the Commission’s proposals, the European Parliament is recognising that neither the EU nor the UK can afford to keep dealing with such a high economic burden – and that the public should be better protected from japanese knotweed damage to their property.  However, it is not certain whether the legislation will be strong enough to stop the spread of certain species, including knotweed. For example it is not clear whether a land owner with a property affected by knotweed will be forced to ensure that knotweed already present is removed. Further, the legislation will not help people buying or selling a house, or trying to re-mortgage as lenders’ lending policies will be unaffected by the legislation.

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