In this case, two neighbouring bungalow owners in South Wales sued Network Rail for allowing Japanese knotweed roots to spread on their land. Japanese knotweed is a plant with bamboo-like qualities. It grows very quickly and densely and can damage structures such as paths, drains and walls. It is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to plant Japanese knotweed or to allow this harmful plant to grow.
The bungalows were located on the top of an embankment sloping down to the railway line. Network Rail owned the land up to the bungalows’ boundaries. Japanese knotweed had been growing on the banking for over 50 years and Network Rail had been aware of the problem for many years as well, even though these specific complaints were first raised in 2013.
The Japanese knotweed here had not actually damaged the foundations of the bungalows yet. As no physical damage could be shown by the property owners, they did not succeed in the part of the claim for nuisance based on encroachment. In contrast, the court awarded the bungalow owners damages for stigma and for the diminution in value of their properties as the presence of the plant had affected the saleability of the properties. The court also found that Network Rail had been in breach of duty by delaying spraying and treating the plant for some years after they were aware of the problem and its likely effect on the properties. Finally, Network Rail did not have a prescriptive right (through long use) to cause a nuisance because it could not be shown that a nuisance had been caused for more than 20 years. In the end, Network Rail had to pay the bungalow owners damages of around £15,000 each. Despite only being a non-binding County Court case, this judgment could lead a large number of other similar claims being issued.
Benchmark Solicitors London can deal with nuisance and other property-related claims from their office in Central London.