Weeds and Invasive Plants

Weeds and Invasive Plants

Information on Weeds and Invasive Plants and how to deal with them.  Please note that West Northamptonshire Council is not responsible for weeds or invasive plants unless they are on land owned by the Council. 

Invasive plants

These are listed under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(Prohibition on Sale etc. of Invasive Non-native Plants (England) Order 2014 and include:

Himalayan balsam

Giant hogweed

Rhododendron and

New Zealand Pigmyweed

Japanese Knotweed


handy guide to managing invasive plants, including Japanese Knotweed is available.


Japanese Knotweed  

How Do I Identify Japanese Knotweed?

Cornwall County Council have produced a very good guide for identifying Japanese Knotweed


Whose responsibility?

Managing Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is the responsibility of the owner/occupier of the site. While there is no statutory requirement to control/eradicate this invasive, nor is it necessary to report its presence (it is not listed in the Weeds Act 1959), it is prudent to take action to control its spread quickly.


Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Japanese knotweed is listed on Schedule 9, Part II of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 making it an offence Under Section 14 (2) (a) of the Act to “plant or otherwise cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild”. Both the Police and local authorities have enforcement functions under the Act. Penalties for a Section 14 offence have been modified by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for England and Wales. A magistrates‟ court can impose a maximum fine of £5000 or a maximum prison sentence of six months, or both. A Crown Court can impose an unlimited fine or a maximum prison sentence of two years, or both.


Is allowing Japanese Knotweed to spread a Nuisance?

Allowing Japanese knotweed to spread onto neighbouring land could be considered to be a private nuisance but NOT a statutory nuisance.


For a statutory nuisance to exist or be likely to occur, defined as “any premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”,  under Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the nuisance has to be a disease or health related matter, not physical risk of injury or damage. Therefore Japanese knotweed can NOT be considered to be a statutory nuisance.


The common law of private nuisance defines nuisance as the “unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land, or some right over, or in connection with it” [Read v Lyons and Co. Ltd, (1945) K.B.216]. This principle allows landowners or tenants of leasehold properties who have a right to the land affected to bring an action against the person responsible. In addition, the rule of Rylands v Fletcher (1868) relates to strict liability for foreseeable damage caused by escapes resulting from non-natural uses of land.


The Environmental Protection Act 1990

Soil and waste containing Japanese knotweed is considered to have the potential to cause ecological harm and is deemed "Controlled Waste‟ or "Directive Waste‟ (Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994). 

Under Section 33(1)(a) and (1)(b) of the Environment Protection Act 1990, it is an offence to deposit, treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste without a licence. Exemptions from licensing are available in certain circumstances as set out in Schedule 3 of the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, as amended. 

Section 33 (1)(c) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes it an offence to keep, treat or dispose of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. A magistrates‟ court can impose a maximum fine of £20,000 or a maximum prison sentence of 6 months, or both. A Crown Court can impose an unlimited fine or a maximum prison sentence of 2 years, or both.


Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty of care on any person who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste. 
Their duty is to ensure that:

  • No-one else disposes of the waste unlawfully or in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health
  • Waste does not escape
  • Waste is only transported by a carrier that is either registered or exempt from registration by the Controlled Waste Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicle Regulations 1991

Breach of the duty of care under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is a criminal offence. The  Environment Agency is responsible for enforcement and a person found guilty of an offence under this section is liable to a fine not exceeding £5000 in the magistrates‟ court and to a fine in the Crown Court.


Japanese knotweed must be safely disposed of at an appropriately licensed landfill site in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991. To ensure safe disposal, contaminated soils must be buried to a depth of at least 5 metres. Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 also places a duty of care on all waste producers to ensure that a written description of the waste and any specific harmful properties is provided to the site operator. The provisions concerning waste transfer notes are set out in the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 as amended. Failure to comply with these provisions is an offence.


Hazardous Waste England and Wales Regulations 2005

Untreated knotweed is not regarded as a "Hazardous Waste‟ but material containing knotweed that has been treated with certain herbicides that persist in soil for extended periods with the possibility of leaching and causing harm to the surrounding  environment could be. Additionally, excavated knotweed waste contaminated with high levels of heavy metals or other hazardous materials could be categorised as hazardous and must be disposed of at a licensed hazardous waste landfill site.


Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986

Treatment of knotweed using pesticides requires that all persons follow The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 and comply with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Persons should take all reasonable precautions to protect the health of human beings, creatures and plants, safeguard the environment and, in particular, avoid the pollution of water. Approval from the  Environment Agency should be sought before application of pesticides in or near water.


Reporting Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed on council owned ground can be reported via the council’s contact us page.


The Weeds Act 1959  is legislation that allows the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to serve notice on the occupier of land that, if he is satisfied that injurious weeds are growing thereon, to prevent the spread of the weeds.

At present the legislation applies to the following weeds:

(i)           Spear thistle (cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.)

(ii)          Creeping or field thistle (cirsium arvense  (L) Scop.)

(iii)         Curled dock (rumex crispusL.)

(iv)         Broad-leaved dock (rumex obtusifoliusL.)

(v)          Ragwort (sensecio jacobaeaL.)

And to such injurious weeds as may be prescribed by the Minister by regulations.


It is not an offence for any of the listed weeds to grow on private land but it is an offence to allow them to spread to other occupiers land. The Minister’s powers for enforcement have been devolved to Natural England and they will investigate matters which may be an offence under the Weeds Act 1959.  


Ragwort; why is it a problem?

Common ragwort is a plant that is toxic to livestock and horses and it accounts for over 90 percent of complaints about injurious weeds. It is the only one of the five weeds specified in the Weeds Act 1959 that poses a serious risk to animal health, especially horses, ponies, cattle and sheep as it can cause cumulative liver damage and can even be fatal if ingested in its green or dried state.


How do I prevent the spread of weeds?

A code of practice on how to prevent the spread of Ragwort and other weeds is available.


Reporting the spread of any of the five weeds

Natural England are the body responsible for dealing with complaints of the spread of injurious weeds.  They can contacted on 0300 060 1112 for help and advice.  Information on reporting weeds and the spread of weeds is also available.  


Weeds on Public Land

West Northamptonshire Council has no responsibility for removing any of the 5 injurious weeds mentioned on private land.

If Ragwort is seen on council owned land please contact us


Identification of the Five Species

This can be done with the guide available from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Contact us