Knotweed row victory could lead to more claims

Knotweed row victory could lead to more claims

Litigation claims from homeowners, whose properties have been blighted by the invasive Japanese knotweed, could be about increase, as the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of two claimants in a landmark case.

The homeowners, Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell, who live in adjacent bungalows next to a railway embankment, had taken Network Rail to court last year, after the knotweed present on its land reduced the value of their homes considerably.

As the weed had encroached upon their property, they were left unable to sell, due to lenders refusing mortgages on homes where the destructive plant is present. This led to a successful claim against Network Rail in February 2017, where damages were awarded. But the ruling was challenged by the rail organisation, leading to today’s decision at the Court of Appeal.

The judges backed the original decision as the knotweed growing on Network Rail’s land had spread beneath the claimants’ homes, with the potential to cause structural damage.

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, announced today’s decision to uphold the previous ruling, saying: “Japanese knotweed, and its roots and rhizomes, does not merely carry the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations on the land.

“Its presence imposes an immediate burden on landowners who face an increased difficulty in their ability to develop – and in the cost of developing – their land, should they wish to do so, because of the difficulties and expense of eradicating Japanese knotweed from affected land.”

Just how today’s decision will impact on landowners throughout England and Wales is yet to be seen.