UK's £166m knotweed problem could be tip of the iceberg

Knotweed is losing the UK “hundreds of millions of pounds” each year and far outstripping Government estimates of £166 million according to experts.

Will Sillar is part of the team who founded the National Knotweed Survey to catalogue the effect of the invasive and destructive plant and believes there is a huge problem with those involved with the buying and selling of property being in the dark over the issue.

Mr Sillar said: “Conveyancers, insurers, mortgage lenders, estate agents, and indeed anybody buying or selling a property, are often in the dark with regard to the knotweed problem. Questions of how to spot it, what to do, and whose responsibility it is, have led to hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of business falling through every year.

“The organisation has been years in the making and we have brought together a team of experts to create the UK’s definitive central resource on knotweed, with two main objectives: to define a universally recognised surveying report template, and more ambitiously, to create a comprehensive searchable database of where the plant is or might be, which can be included as part of every homebuyer’s searches and surveys, and we hope might one day be mandated by the industry.”

There is estimated to be one infestation of Japanese Knotweed in every ten square kilometres across the UK. An estimated £70 million was spent on dealing with knotweed on the site of the Olympic park in London – nearly one tenth of the overall cost of the project.

It can take two years for a knotweed stalk to decompose entirely, with just 0.6g of root needed for the plant to return. It can also grow up to 40mm each day.

Legislation introduced in November 2014 means that anyone who allows Japanese Knotweed to go uncontrolled on their property can be served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, a £100 on-the-spot fine or prosecution (with a maximum £2,500 penalty).

The official Home Office report states that: “The notice can be used to require someone to control or prevent the growth of Japanese Knotweed or other plants that are capable of causing serious problems to communities. Breach of any requirement of a community protection notice, without reasonable excuse, would be a criminal offence.”

Government legislation also states: “If you have invasive plants on your premises you have a responsibility to prevent them spreading into the wild or causing a nuisance.”

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