Japanese knotweed may have been disproportionately singled-out over other invasive plants the government has said.  It was responding to a report by The Science and Technology Committee which called for more research into the effects of knotweed on the built environment.

In May 2019 the Committee reported that the current approach to Japanese knotweed was ‘overly cautious’.  It followed research published earlier this year by Leeds University and engineering firm AECOM which said that the risk of knotweed should be reassessed (see Brunel News April 2019).

Now the government has tasked the Environment Agency to work with major national knotweed remediation firms to build a national database about the species.  This may be used to inform academic research into knotweed.  The government also wants Defra to commission a study on international approaches to knotweed in relation to property sales.

Japanese knotweed had developed a fearsome reputation among property owners and mortgage lenders for the damage it causes to property.  It is an invasive species, which has been linked to significant structural damage to properties.  It has been classified as ‘controlled waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and must be disposed of securely if found.

Under the current regime, the risks of missing knotweed are significant. Earlier this year a property-owner won costs and damages of £50,000 after a surveyor failed to spot Japanese knotweed growing in the garden of the ground floor flat he was buying (see Brunel News August 2019).

Japanese knotweed has long been treated with great caution by mortgage lenders and property professionals,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “While a reassessment of its risks is welcome, property professional should still be on their guard, because until new guidance is issued, knotweed claims will be dealt with under the existing regime.”

A report about the Science and Technology Committee’s report has been published on the Parliament website along with the government’s response.  News of the steps taken by the government has been published by DAC Beachcroft.

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