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Legal Issues

It has been illegal in the UK since 1981 to plant or otherwise cause Japanese knotweed to grow. Because of its highly regenerative nature, knotweed is classed as ‘controlled waste’ and disposal of any knotweed material beyond the boundaries of the site of origin runs the risk of prosecution if it is not disposed of by prior arrangement at a licensed landfill site (except in very rare circumstances where the Environment Agency has formally granted otherwise). The transportation of knotweed to landfill and the herbicidal treatment of knotweed on site are also subject to various legal and best practice requirements. There are a number of pieces of legislation that relate to Japanese knotweed and it is important to familiarise yourself with them to ensure you do not inadvertently break the law.

The following is a list of the principal legislation that impacts upon the treatment or removal of Japanese knotweed. It is not an exhaustive list, as pieces of legislation are often being updated or superseded, but serves as guidance to the most relevant.

  • Control of Pesticides Amendment Regulations 1997 (amendment to COPR 1986)
  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
  • The Environmental Protection Act (1990)
  • The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991
  • The Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1998
  • The Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005
  • The Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994

Japanese knotweed spreading across property boundaries is an all too common problem. In these situations, property owners often consider bringing legal action against their neighbours, where their neighbour can be identified as a source of the infestation now encroaching on their land. None of the above legislation covers this circumstance, so the usual routes of action are to seek a prosecution under Common Law or to request an Anti-Social Behaviour Order to be issued under The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Orders may be implemented by either Local Authorities or the local Police Force and the process can be initiated either directly by these bodies or by a ‘community trigger’, whereby a group of individuals bring a claim of nuisance against a single party. While the legislation does not specifically refer to Japanese knotweed, guidance issued by the Home Office in 2014 suggested it could be included. The legislation itself is open to interpretation, meaning each Council or Police Force will have their own locally defined trigger points, with action only being taken after these have been fulfilled. This does mean that some regions will be much more proactive with this legislation than others.


Common law case against Network Rail

Under Common Law, legal cases involving knotweed tend to be heard in the civil court. Many civil cases never reach court due to the claimant running out of money or an out of court settlement being reached between the parties involved. Generally, civil cases are not reported in the wider media, but one case from 2017-8 caused national headlines and has changed the legal landscape in regard to knotweed infringement.



Other Invasive Weeds

Aside from knotweed, there are other invasive weeds that are subject to legislation. Giant hogweed in particular is a significant issue and is subject to most of the same legislation as Japanese knotweed. The following publication provides useful reading for issues arising from giant hogweed, including history, biology, treatment and the health implications the plant presents. See also our giant hogweed section in ‘Other Invasive Weeds’.


Common ragwort, whilst a native species to the UK, causes a great deal of concern, particularly in regard to the health of livestock. Generally, the rule of thumb with ragwort is that it must be dealt with if it presents a significant risk of infecting livestock fodder but can be left alone if it does not. The management of ragwort is detailed in the following guidance document:


If you are looking for general information on a wide range of invasive species affecting the UK, you may find the following publication useful:


Further general information and treatment advice on a range of invasive plants can be found in the following:

Please note that The Knotweed Company provides links to external websites in good faith and is not responsible for either the link or any information obtained from these links.


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