On 2 February 2017, the Cardiff County Court decided, in joined cases, that the defendant, Network Rail, had caused an 'actionable nuisance' by failing to take reasonable steps to prevent an invasive plant, Japanese knotweed, from blighting domestic properties next to its railway embankment.
Japanese Knotweed was originally brought to Britain for its beauty and was named the “most interesting ornamental plant of the year” in 1847. In Japan the climate and regular ash from the volcanic landscape would keep the plants small, whereas the environment in Britain allows it to grow out of control and become aggressive.
Actionable nuisances can be public or private. They are called "actionable" nuisances because they can be a cause of action for a lawsuit. That means that a person can be sued for causing an actionable nuisance. The person who caused the nuisance could be forced to pay damages to the plaintiff if he or she loses the case.
Although this is a County Court case, it is significant in determining that:
- The knotweed was an actionable nuisance before it caused physical damage on the neighbouring land because of its effect on the amenity value of the claimants' land (and caused a diminution in its value).
- The defendant was fixed with constructive knowledge of the potential impact of knotweed from the publication, in 2012-13, of Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Property Care Association guides highlighting potential property damage from knotweed.
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(Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd  UK CC (2 February 2017).)