Preston grandmother Mary, 80, wins £27,000 damages from Preston Council over invasive weed

A pensioner has been awarded compensation after the notorious plant Japanese knotweed damaged her property.

Friday, 8th May 2020, 9:04 am

Mary, an 80-year-old grandmother, made a successful legal claim after the weed encroached onto her home of 56 years, in Deepdale, from a council-owned derelict railway track.

It is believed around five percent of homes are impacted directly or indirectly by Japanese knotweed, which has the potential to cause severe damage to homes, affect the value of property and pose a threat to mortgage applications.

It is against the law to cause or allow the plant to spread in the wild.

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It is against the law to cause or allow Japanese knotweed to spread in the wild

Mary thought it was simply another eye-catching plant thanks to its brightly coloured shoots.

But when her gardener failed to get rid of it with weed killer he investigated and found it was Japanese knotweed.

Mary, 80, said: “The weed had been coming through the fence for years but I just kept cutting it back myself as I assumed it was harmless.

“The weed had been severely damaging the fencing for a long time, but I thought I’d just have to get on with it, as I didn’t know experts could come in and remove it – and I certainly didn’t know about the potential impact on the value of my house.”

Mary was helped by law firm CEL Solicitors, to claim compensation for repairs to her property.

Mark Montaldo, director at CEL Solicitors, which specialises in Japanese knotweed claims, said: “Japanese knotweed can be tricky to identify as its appearance changes throughout the year, but it’s usually around this time that it starts to grow and now is the best time to get it treated by experts before it gets out of control.

“We strongly recommend not attempting any DIY treatments, as this can worsen the problem and even result in it spreading to neighbouring properties. It is illegal to cause or allow the plant to spread and could result in legal action. Mortgage companies will also only lend if you can show the property is knotweed free or that it is being treated by a company who offers an insurance backed guarantee.

“One of the main things to establish is also where the weed is coming from. We work with a large number of homeowners who have found that their infestation has encroached onto their property from a nearby public space, and are therefore eligible to claim against the land owner to help pay for its removal.

“We’re also seeing a rise in the number of people buying properties and finding they are entitled to a claim, as the vendors and/or surveyors have failed to declare the presence of Japanese knotweed prior to the sale.”

Mary added: “I do believe that more awareness needs to be raised about Japanese knotweed and how it can affect property prices and grow very quickly. Councils need to take responsibility for it growing onto people’s land and make sure it’s treated effectively.”

Nic Seal, of specialist firm Environet, warned homewoners against the temptation to deal with it themselves by cutting it back, attempting to dig it up, or using an over the counter weed killer, as they could fail or encourage the plant to spread.

The tell tale signs include fast-growing, distinctive red/purple shoots that appear in May, followed by green stems which grow to waist height, and heart shaped leaves.

Preston City Council's chief executive, Adrian Phillips, said: “Such liability claims (for loss, damage or personal injury) are handled by the council’s Public Liability Insurers and as such, so as not to prejudice its position with its insurers, the council declines to comment on specific individual claims.”