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 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 the government to investigate complaints where there is a risk that injurious weeds might spread.
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.
Advice on the control of specified weeds and landowners statutory responsibilities can be obtained from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs at:
- Address: Information Resource Centre, Lower Ground Floor, Ergon House, c/o Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR
Or visit the government website which contains excellent advice on how to control or eradicate specified weeds from land.
For advice concerning how to control specified weeds or to make a complaint about the failure to control specified weeds on land contact DEFRA, Injurious Weeds Section at Crewe on 01270 754000.
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
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What about weeds not covered by the Weeds Act 1959
Under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it can be an offence to plant or grow Japanese Knotweed however; there is no statutory requirement for landowners to remove these plants from their property once established naturally.
Whose responsibility is it?
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.
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.
It's 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 you do not know who owns the adjoining land, or you are in dispute with your neighbour about control of Japanese Knotweed, current legislation offers little support.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides some legal support if Japanese Knotweed is causing a nuisance to private property. A private nuisance is defined as an "unlawful interference with a person's use or enjoyment of land, or some right over, or in connection with it" (Read v Lyons & Co Ltd. 1945). 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.
How do I control or Eradicate Japanese Knotweed on my land?
Regular cutting or pulling will, after a number of years, eventually exhaust the rhizome and kill the plant. It is important that all cut or pulled stems of Japanese Knotweed are kept on site and disposed of by proper composting or burning. Regular checks should be made to ensure that this material is not contaminating watercourses or other sites, or developing roots. Dense stands of Japanese Knotweed can be treated with a glyphosate-based herbicide, such as 'Roundup'. If the Japanese Knotweed is sparsely distributed, spot-treat or use 2,4-D amine, which is specific to broadleaved plants and will not harm the grasses. It may take two or three years to completely kill the entire plant. More effective control can be achieved if Japanese Knotweed is cut or sprayed in early summer, and then sprayed again in late summer, just before the winter dieback. For further advice visit the Environment Agency Website.