Weeds and knotweed

The Weeds Act 1959 classifies certain species of weed that grow in the UK for specific control. Under the Weeds Act, the Secretary of State for the Department Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) can, if satisfied that specified weeds are growing upon any land, serve a notice requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the spread of those weeds. An unreasonable failure to comply with a notice is an offence.

The Weeds Act only applies to:

  • Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea);
  • Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare);
  • Creeping or Field Thistle (Cirisium arvense);
  • Curled Dock (Rumex crispus);
  • Broad-Leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius);

and enables DEFRA to investigate complaints where there is a risk that injurious weeds might spread.

If you find Japanese knotweed (see FAQs below) on your travels around the district and are unsure what action to take, please call contact the Council.

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Who is responsible for weeds?

Responsibility for control of specified weeds rests with the occupier of the land on which the weeds are growing. When seeking to prevent the spread of specified weeds, all landowners, occupiers and managers should co-operate and, where necessary, take a collective responsibility for ensuring that effective control of the spread of specified weeds.

Where specified weeds are growing on verges of large main roads (trunk roads) or motorways in the district, control and eradication is the responsibility of the Highways Agency. Telephone 08457 504030 or by email  at ha_info@highways.gsi.gov.uk.

Whose responsibility is it to control Japenese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed is the most common of 4 invasive knotweed plant species in the UK.

These are:

  • Japanese knotweed
  • Dwarf knotweed
  • Giant knotweed
  • Bohemian (hybrid) knotweed

If the land is privately owned then the responsibility for the control of this weed rests with the landowner or tenant of the land. The Environment Agency or local government are not obliged to control this weed on behalf of other landowners. Disputes between neighbours regarding problems associated with this weed are largely a civil matter.

I have Japanese knotweed coming onto my land from an adjoining property, what can I do?

The best solution is to co-operate with the neighbouring landowner and co-ordinate your control efforts, by sharing costs or labour, for instance.

If this solution is not effective, other courses of action can be taken: 

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides some legal support if Japanese knotweed is causing a nuisance to private property. A solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to offer advice on how to take private nuisance action against a landowner where negotiations on control or eradication have failed.

The government has reformed the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Whilst this does not explicitly refer to Japanese knotweed, frontline professionals can stop or prevent any behaviour that is deemed to be acting unreasonably and which persistently or continually has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. Community Protection Notices can be served against these individuals, which may require someone to control or prevent the growth of Japanese knotweed. Local authorities and the police have the power to issue notices for invasive non-native species like Japanese knotweed. 

I have Japanese knotweed on my land, what should I do?

  • Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 you must prevent Japanese knotweed on your land spreading into the wild.
  • There is no legal obligation to remove or treat knotweed as long as you’re not encouraging or allowing the growth on to adjacent land.
  • The Environment Agency or Local Authority are not obliged to control this weed on behalf of other landowners.
  • You do not need to report the presence of Japanese knotweed on your land.
  • Further useful information about Japanese knotweed can be found on the Gov.uk Japanese knotweed webpages. This document identifies how to identify Japanese knotweed; how to prevent the spread of Japanese knotweed; how to dispose of Japanese knotweed; information about waste carrier requirements and contact details. Alternatively you can access the Environment Agency website.