The legal standing of Japanese Knotweed varies slightly across the UK, in England and Wales the primary legislation relating to knotweed is ‘Section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981)’. In Scotland this is still the overarching legislation but in effect has been superseded by the amendments which came into force with the ‘The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2012’. In relation to the management of knotweed, the practical application of the law is essentially the same.
Japanese Knotweed is classified as an invasive species it is therefore the responsibility of the land owner to prevent the plant spreading to neighbouring land (or into the wild), and removal of plant must be conducted with due care and attention. There is no legal obligation to remove or treat knotweed as long as you’re not encouraging or allowing the growth on to adjacent land. As of schedule 9 of the ‘Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981’, you must not plant or cause to grow Japanese Knotweed in the wild.
In Scotland the Scottish Minister, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Enviroment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) have powers to require land managers to take action in relation to invasive species. In practice this means that SNH who have responsibility for land based invasive species can put in place Species Control Orders or Emergency Control Orders to force a landowner to take action to prevent the spread of Japanese Knotweed.
The penalties for breaking the law can be severe, if taken to court you will be tried under the primary legislation and a person found guilty of an offence under Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 could be liable to:
• imprisonment for up to six months and /or a fine of up to £40,000 (summary conviction)
• imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine, (conviction on indictment).
There are no regulations stating that you need to notify anyone Japanese Knotweed is growing on your land. However reporting the growth of the plant to the Non-native Species Secretariat website (NNSS) does help with getting a handle on how quickly it’s spreading across the country.
The use of pesticides in treating knotweed is governed by ‘The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986’ require any person who uses a pesticide to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health of human beings, creatures and plants, safeguard the environment. By law anyone who uses pesticides professionally must be certified in the safe use of pesticides and trained within the application of the herbicide, whether this is by backpack sprayers, aerial atomisers, etc. Operatives who haven’t gained the relevant qualifications can be supervised by a person who has the necessary certificates, although they must be able to be seen by and hear the supervisor. To supply, store or use ‘agricultural pesticides’ a certificate of competence is required.
Off-site disposal falls under the ‘Environmental Protection Act 1990’ particularly regarding the disposal of knotweed as a controlled waste. Disposing must be done by a licensed waste carrier as stated in ‘Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011’ and disposed of within a licensed facility. Relevant transfer notes must be completed and stored. If the knotweed has been untreated before off-site disposal then it’s not classed as hazardous waste. If the plant material being transferred contains certain pesticides the waste moves into the hazardous category requiring a consignment note as per the ‘Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005’.
In 2013 the UK government decreed that anyone failing to control Japanese Knotweed (and other invasive weeds) could receive an anti-social behaviour order. It will be seen as committing a criminal offence. For an individual on-the-spot penalties of £100 can be issued, if prosecuted fines of up to £2500 and companies up to £20,000
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