Pensioner awarded nearly £10,000 in damages due to ‘monster’ Japanese knotweed invasion from railway line

Overgrown plants at the bottom of a garden on top of a broken shed
Richard Pember said the plant was like ‘living with a monster that always comes back’ after it overwhelmed his garden (Image credit: InkedPR)

A homeowner has won nearly £10,000 in damages after highly invasive and destructive Japanese knotweed infested his home.

Richard Pember, 74, sued Transport for Wales after the pesky weed spread from a railway line behind his home in in Pontypridd, South Wales.

Japanese knotweed removal is tricky and preventing its return can be an intensive and expensive job – it has been known for banks to refuse mortgage applications on houses with an infestation, and this case highlights why it is important to deal with it as soon as possible.

Japanese knotweed, which grew over 20 feet, was like ‘living with a monster that always comes back’

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was introduced to the UK during the Victorian era and gardeners were attracted to its heart-shaped leaves and exotic flowers, but the plant grows aggressively and its extensive root system can cause damage to buildings and roads with homeowners now frantically trying to find out how to kill Japanese knotweed instead.

Mr Pember says the plant, which he first noticed in 2016, grew more than 20 feet in four years and took over his home in Hopkinstown, despite a series of Japanese knotweed removal cost treatments at £800 each.

He told MailOnline: “It has massively devalued the house in my opinion because nobody wants to move into a property that has a Japanese knotweed infestation. It's like living with a monster that always comes back.”

An overgrown plants growing on top of some fencing panels

Mr Pember said the invasive plant 'massively devalued' his house and, despite his best efforts, he could not remove the plant (Image credit: InkedPR)

Invasive plant ‘left destruction in its path’ and covered the gravestones in a neighbouring graveyard

A graveyard close to the infestation has been covered by knotweed as it had been left to grow so large.

Mr Pember said: “You can't even see the gravestones anymore which is really sad.

“You hear stories about this stuff completely taking over homes and I was terrified that might happen to mine.”

Marc Davies, 38, took Bridgend County Borough Council in south Wales to court after the invasive weed spread from a disused railway line next to his home.

Not dealing with Japanese knotweed on your land can make you liable to civil action if this spreads to other people's property, as seen in February when Homebuilding and Renovating reported on how a homeowner won a £300,000 court case after suing his local authority for letting Japanese knotweed spread into his garden.

Railway firm blamed for ‘diminishing’ home’s value

A judge ordered Transport for Wales, the authority responsible for the land where the infestation came from, to pay up because it failed to tackle the growth before it spread to the home.

A spokesperson for Transport for Wales told MailOnline: “TfW is naturally disappointed with this court result given the facts as presented to the court. 

“TfW has categorically not failed in treating the Japanese knotweed on its land and has a thorough and effective treatment programme in place across the whole of the Core Valley Lines network where this property neighbours.

“In this instance the court found for the claimant on the tenuous basis of a single missing documentary record. Neither TfW nor Network Rail (from whom Transport for Wales purchased the Core Valley Lines on 28 March 2020) accept that a treatment itself was missed. An appeal was considered but on this occasion was not pursued.”

Cases like this make Japanese knotweed identification and removal crucial in order to save a lot of time and heart ache.

Richard added: “My message to others who might have a similar Japanese Knotweed infestation is, get it sorted quickly otherwise you'll pay the price.”

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.