Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Front Page - ADRIAN HEARN [email protected]­erndai­ly­

APROPERTY firm which al­lowed an 8ft-high jun­gle of knotweed to grow so big it could be seen from space has been fined £18,000 in the first pros­e­cu­tion of its type.

The in­va­sive plant has been spreading for 10 years and was block­ing light from neigh­bour­ing homes.

Bris­tol City Coun­cil pros­e­cuted the land­lord MB Es­tate Lim­ited on be­half of seven res­i­dents us­ing anti-so­cial be­hav­iour laws.

Lawyers for the coun­cil be­lieve it is the first time the Anti-So­cial Be­hav­iour, Crime and Polic­ing Act 2014 has been used to tackle nui­sance over­growth.

Amie King moved into a £400,000 prop­erty in Ash Road, Hor­field, in 2007 and soon be­came plagued by “the for­est next door”.

She told BBC Ra­dio Bris­tol: “It’s wor­ry­ing be­cause it can af­fect the sale of our prop­er­ties, mort­gages - it’s the stress of it all. You don’t have any­one to help you.

“We had no idea what it was and were un­sure of what ex­actly it was over­grown with - just big green plants. It’s like a for­est, my chil­dren re­fer to it as ‘the for­est next door’.

“We went through the coun­cil and for years they were un­able to do any­thing be­cause legally they didn’t have any­thing to use.

“For years and years we’ve been bang­ing our heads against a brick wall feel­ing like no one can help.

“The neigh­bours were com­pletely fed up. They were de­lighted as I was to hear about this new law which the coun­cil can now use to pros­e­cute pri­vate landown­ers. It hadn’t been used be­fore in Eng­land.

“It’s re­ally en­cour­ag­ing that not only did coun­cil agree to pros­e­cute on our be­half we have also had a great re­sult from it. This should fill peo­ple with a lot of con­fi­dence.”

MB Es­tate Lim­ited was served with a com­mu­nity pro­tec­tion no­tice in May 2017 but, af­ter fail­ing to com­ply, was pros­e­cuted us­ing the new act.

The com­pany didn’t at­tend the hear­ing or sen­tenc­ing and was fined £18,000 plus costs in its ab­sence at Bris­tol Mag­is­trates Court on Tues­day.

Coun­cil­lor Kye Dudd, cab­i­net mem­ber with re­spon­si­bil­ity for reg­u­la­tory ser­vices, said: “Us­ing this new Anti So­cial Be­hav­iour Crime and Polic­ing Act 2014, we sus­pect it is the first time a case like this has gone for­ward un­der that act.

“We be­came aware of this case back at the end of 2014 - the nor­mal process is we try and re­solve things in­for­mally with dis­cus­sion and we have had hardly any en­gage­ment from this com­pany.

“There was a no show at court so it was is­sued in their ab­sence.

“It’s pretty poor be­hav­iour which was maybe taken into ac­count when the mag­is­trate is­sued the fine.

It is an eye-wa­ter­ing amount of money - £18,000 is quite a lot.

“Knotweed has the po­ten­tial to cause sig­nif­i­cant nui­sance to prop­erty owners, caus­ing struc­tural dam­age as well as anx­i­ety over the ef­fect on prop­erty prices and the abil­ity to se­cure a mort­gage.”

The firm was is­sued with a court or­der re­quir­ing it to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion and the knotweed has now been cut back.

Ja­panese knotweed was in­tro­duced to the UK around 200 years ago as an ornamental plant, but is now com­mon and wide­spread.

Un­der the pro­vi­sions made within Sched­ule 9 of the Wildlife and Coun­try­side Act 1981, it is an of­fence to cause Ja­panese knotweed to grow in the wild.

The Ja­panese knotweed which was leftgrow­ing out of control be­hind houses in Bris­tol

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