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Homeowners win Japanese knotweed claim against Network Rail

The High Court has settled a dispute between two brothers after one accused the other of using undue influence to persuade their mother to leave him her house in her will.

Two homeowners have won a claim against Network Rail after the company failed to keep Japanese knotweed under control on its land.

The plant grows very fast and can damage the structure of buildings due to its widespread roots.

Some of the weed growing on Network Rail land spread to the properties of both Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell, who own adjoining bungalows.

The knotweed had been on the company’s land at that location for at least 50 years.

Williams and Waistell complained about the issue in 2013, and eventually took their case to Cardiff County Court.

They were awarded £10,000 each to cover the loss in value of their property as well as £4,320 to treat the knotweed.

However, the money was withheld while Network Rail appealed the ruling.

The Court of Appeal has now found in favour of Williams and Waistell. It held that the encroachment of Japanese knotweed on to a property can give rise to a claim even though no physical damage had yet been caused.

The risk of future physical damage imposed an immediate burden on landowners in terms of increased difficulty to develop the land and therefore diminished the utility and amenity of the property.

Giving judgment, Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls, said: “Japanese knotweed can fairly be described as a natural hazard which affects landowners’ ability fully to use and enjoy their property and, in doing so, interferes with the land’s amenity value.”

Network Rail were refused permission to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court.

It is thought that the case could lead to many more claims against Network Rail and other landowners.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this case or any matter relating to neighbour disputes and property law.

Cases featured

Homeowners win Japanese knotweed claim against Network Rail
[2018] EWCA Civ 1514
NETWORK RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE LTD v (1) STEPHEN WILLIAMS (2) ROBIN WAISTELL (2018)
CA (Civ Div) (Sir Terence Etherton MR, Sharp LJ, Leggatt LJ) 03/07/2018

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