Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Invasive plant laws need handling with care

Alien plants such as Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed, or Himalayan Balsam will soon be bursting forth but tough regulations mean landowners face stiffer penalties if they ignore these invaders.

Many farmers and landowners are aware of the need to control plants such as Ragwort, which can be dangerous to livestock, especially when it gets into hay.

Invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam can do tremendous damage. Knotweed is extremely hard to eliminate without specialist help because it spreads through underground rhizomes rather than seeds. Himalayan Balsam grows along waterways dying back every year, undermining bank foundations and causing them to collapse, while Giant Hogweed is highly toxic, sometimes just through brushing against the plant.

Home Office guidance on using powers under “The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: Reform of anti-social behaviour powers” explains that individuals, businesses, or organisations have a legal responsibility to prevent certain invasive non-native plants or injurious weeds on their premises spreading into the wild.

A Community Protection Notice (CPN) can be used against individuals or organisations when they fail to control or prevent the growth of plants capable of causing serious problems to communities. The test is that the conduct is detrimental of a

persistent or continuing nature to the quality of life of those in the locality, and that the conduct is unreasonable. Under section 57 of the Act, ‘conduct’ includes ‘failure to act’.

Local councils and the police have power to issue notices for invasive non-native species placing restrictions on a person’s behaviour and, if necessary, forcing them to take steps to rectify the behaviour.

Breach of any requirement of a CPN, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence, subject to a fixed penalty notice for £100 or prosecution where an individual would be liable to a fine. For an organisation, such as a company, that could be up to £20,000.

It’s easy to see how failing to control invasive plants could have real consequences – and the plants would still need to be eradicated. Learning how to identify and control these plants is more-than-ever essential.

Further guidance published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs setting out your legal responsibility for dealing with Japanese knotweed, other invasive plants and how to remove and dispose of them can be found by clicking here.

Details of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: Reform of anti-social behaviour powers can be found by clicking here.

Specific details relating to invasive plant species legislation can be found by clicking here.

Tim Jones

Tim JonesFRICS

Partner - Head of Rural Division

Tim is head of the firm's Rural Division and of the Cambridge office, although he spends a considerable amount of time in London.  He has over 20 years experience in advising institutional and pri...

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