Invasive plants and harmful weeds
An invasive plant is one that is not native to its location, and which has a tendency to spread and possibly cause damage to the environment.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 contains a list of invasive plants such as:
Invasive plants can be identified using the links above, which provide information sheets on the most common varieties. Other invasive plants and animals can be indentified through the GB Non-native species website.
What are harmful weeds?
Harmful weeds may be native to the UK but may be a danger to animals, or cause problems for agricultural production if left to spread unchecked:
- common ragwort
- spear thistle
- creeping or field thistle
- broad-leaved dock
- curled dock
Find out how to identify these harmful weeds.
Who is responsible for controlling invasive plants and harmful weeds?
Managing invasive plants and harmful weeds is the responsibility of the owner or occupier of the property, land or site.
There is no statutory requirement to control or remove invasive plants that are on your own property, and you are not required to report their presence.
However, you should take action to control their spread quickly; invasive plants and harmful weeds must not be allowed to spread into the wild or onto neighbouring property or land.
The Gov.uk website has guidance on how to prevent harmful weeds and invasive non-native plants spreading and prevent Japanese knotweed spreading. The guidance also explains how you could risk a fine or prosecution if you do not deal with or dispose of invasive plants and harmful weeds properly.
Invasive plants and harmful weeds growing on private land
If your land is affected - you can find some useful information on the Gov.uk website. The council does not provide a treatment service for the removal or disposal of invasive plants or harmful weeds.
If your land is affected by invasive plants from a neighbouring plot of land - because the growth or the effects of the plant are not classed as being 'prejudicial to health' and are not associated with disease or other health related matters, the council can't deal with the problem as a 'statutory nuisance'.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 provides discretionary powers to enable steps to be taken for land to be cleared when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area. However the council will not generally take any formal action because of the extensive treatment period necessary to destroy the plant (for example it can take 15 years for giant hogweed seeds to stop germinating).
The best approach is to contact the land owner and try to resolve the matter amicably rather than resort to legal action against a 'private nuisance'. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a good source of independent advice.
If your agricultural land is affected by harmful weeds from a neighbouring plot - Natural England may be able to help if your land is used for:
- keeping or grazing horses and other livestock
- farmland used to produce conserved forage (eg silage and hay)
Where we are aware of the growth of invasive plants on a development site - We will inform the developers of their responsibilities as soon as possible to ensure that no further contamination occurs.
Through the development control process we will seek to secure appropriate planning conditions to ensure developers control and eradicate invasive plants on development sites.
Invasive plants on council land
We keep a record of land we own where we know there is a presence of invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed. Treatment is carried out on these sites by a specialist contractor twice a year.