Japanese knotweed Management Overseas - Defra Report

The long awaited report, snappily titled “International Approaches to Japanese Knotweed in the Context of Property Sales”, hit my desk last weekend and will have been seen and read by many of our members already. It was commissioned by Defra in response to the Commons Select Committee Report “Japanese knotweed and the Built Environment” published in 2019.

Defra were asked to conduct research in to Japanese knotweed management overseas to investigate whether the UK’s approach was, in general and/or specifically in relation to the conveyancing/property sale process, proportionate/justified.

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JKW is more common in the UK than anywhere else

The report is 108 pages long but I have some good news for you – the conclusion is quite simple. The answer is YES, the UK’s approach IS proportionate. After detailed descriptions of how they gathered the data and analysis of the responses received they came to this conclusion primarily because, whilst different approaches exist around the world, this is almost entirely explained by the frequency and severity of Japanese knotweed occurrence in each area.

The UK has a uniquely benign geography & climate for Japanese knotweed. This and a combination of socio-economic factors over the last 150 years have led to it being more common and widespread in the UK than anywhere else in the world (other than in its native range of course).

The PCA is the ‘go-to’ industry expert

No surprise then it is often stated in the report that when overseas Governments etc., are looking for guidance on ‘best practice’ it is the UK that they look to. And they ARE looking for that advice/guidance. Time and time-again the report emphasises, where specific Legislation for the control of Japanese knotweed in the built environment does not yet exist, in countries like Germany, the USA and The Netherlands the presence of knotweed is becoming a more frequent cause of concern around property valuation and sale.

Academics and property owners in France and Sweden, two countries with a lot of knotweed but strangely omitted from the study (in preference for South Africa where Japanese knotweed is unknown!), are frequently in touch with the PCA for consultations in this area.

Switzerland and Tasmania seem to be the closest to the UK in terms of Government legislation for dealing with Japanese knotweed but a special mention goes to the state of Victoria where the State will pay for all your Japanese knotweed removal costs should you be unfortunate to have any on your land (we can but dream!).

The PCA has a long track record in promoting high standards

So, can we sit back and relax? May be even give ourselves a ‘pat on the back’ for a job well done? We can (and should), a bit, but not so that we rest on our laurels. The report goes on to say that the way the UK property market deals with invasive weeds isn’t perfect.

The RICS Information Paper and Risk Categories (IP27/2012) on Japanese knotweed (used by valuers and lenders) need to be updated and clear advice for buyers and sellers should be provided at an early stage in property negotiations to avoid unnecessary anxiety. Also to give confidence that Japanese knotweed is a manageable risk, reducing the stigma associated with buying property affected by it. The PCA has a long track record of promoting high standards of knotweed surveying and management so we are proud to say this has always been our aim!

There is a lot more to the study than that – forgive the brief synopsis for now as I wanted to share my initial thoughts. Tune in again next week and I will attempt to delve in to the details of the key recommendations, all of which are entirely consistent with the Association’s long-term goals – to provide consumer confidence through education, training, qualification and standards (on paper and in practice).

But for now, keep up the good work supporting the UK property sector!

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