In Scotland having Japanese knotweed growing on land belonging to you is not of itself against the law. That said, there is now legislation regarding the spread of Japanese knotweed and requirements on a heritable proprietor not to allow this non-native species to spread. Penalties for ignoring such legislation are significant with fines running into thousands of pounds and with the ultimate sanction of imprisonment.
When considering the sanctions and penalties it is important to note where Japanese knotweed is growing. There is separate legislation in place depending on whether this weed is growing in the wild or in urban areas.
On 2 July 2012 the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 came into force. This legislation implemented increased controls on invasive species that were omitted from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The 2011 Act makes specific reference to Japanese knotweed. In terms of this Act it is an offence to plant knotweed or indeed any invasive species that is not native to these shores. This offence exists whether it is planted intentionally or in error. The Scottish Government have published a Code of Practice on all non-native species.
In urban areas Japanese knotweed is recognised as a problem as it is so prolific in its growth and destructive in its nature. Where it occurs in residential locations the Anti-social Behaviour Act can be brought in to play. Any proprietor who ignores Japanese knotweed can be subject to an Anti-social Behaviour Order and receive fines. The levels of such penalties deal with the negligent proprietor who fails to act once they are made aware of knotweed on their land. Such individuals can face on the spot penalties up to £100, criminal prosecution and fines of up to £2,500 and corporate entities and businesses can be fined up to £20,000. More significant penalties arise if it can be established that the knotweed has been deliberately planted. In these circumstances a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six month imprisonment or conviction and indictment to a fine and/or imprisonment of up to two years can be imposed.
As with all neighbour issues owners should endeavour to resolve any knotweed growth by friendly consultation. That said, an owner who ignores requests from a neighbour and who permits this plant encroaching on to another’s property can find themselves subject to a Species Control Agreement. Failure to recognise such an agreement may result in a Species Control Order being issued.
There is significant regulation about how this plant requires to be disposed of and failure to adhere to the requirements means that an individual may fall foul of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This legislation classifies Japanese knotweed as a controlled waste. This means it can only be taken to a licensed landfill site. To transport knotweed a “waste carriers licence” must be obtained. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has the ability to enforce sanctions if they believe a waste offence has been committed. In the event that you have a knotweed issue it would be wise to consult a specialist to ensure that appropriate steps are taken for its removal.
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