Charles Lyndon has been successful on behalf of its client Robin Waistell in a claim against Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd.

On 2 February 2017 Recorder Grubb sitting at Cardiff County Court handed down a landmark judgment, regarding knotweed, that has profound implications for landowners and homeowners across the UK and could cost Network Rail and other major landowners millions.

Japanese knotweed has been described by the Environment Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”, it can grow to 3-4 metres in just 10 weeks.  Underground, its roots – or rhizomes – can spread 7m horizontally and can compromise the structure of buildings.

Owing to the damage that it can cause to property the presence of Japanese Knotweed can pose significant legal and financial problems for individuals and organisations.  The presence of the plant on a property or even in close proximity to a property creates difficulties for people wishing to secure mortgage finance. The problems securing mortgage coupled with the damage that Japanese knotweed can do severely restricts demand for and reduces the value of properties where it is an issue. There have been numerous reported cases of homeowners unable to sell their properties or having to sell for up to 50% below market value.  Despite the fact that it is such a serious problem for so many homeowners, the law surrounding knotweed and property owners’ responsibilities to their neighbours has been the subject of very little judicial guidance, until now.

The judgment discusses the three types of nuisance ((1) encroachment with no physical damage, (2) encroachment with physical damage, and (3) loss of enjoyment).  The judge found that the mere presence of knotweed on an adjoining property was capable of being a nuisance if it interfered with an individual’s ability to realise full market value for the property.

In terms of damages, the judge awarded the cost of treatment plus residual diminution of value.  This is an interesting case as the visible knotweed is all on Network Rail’s land and so treatment is not, without cooperation from Network Rail, possible.  At the handing down of the judgment the judge stressed that his award presupposes that the treatment will take place and that if it does not this is a continuing nuisance and the claimants can come back before the courts and seek further damages (i.e. the full diminution with no effective treatment).

The story has been reported by BBC Wales http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-38867039 and the Mail on Sunday http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4191944/Network-Rail-faces-huge-claims-Japanese-knotweed.html.

If you would like any further information regarding this judgment please contact Dorothea Antzoulatos at [email protected] or on 0207 959 2274.