A pensioner awarded almost £10,000 in damages after a Japanese knotweed plant wreaked havoc on his land has revealed his fears that it will have “massively devalued” his home.
Richard Pember, 74, bought the home in Pontypridd, South Wales, 11 years ago, but is now concerned it will be worth a fraction of what he paid for it after the plant that he described as a “never-ending monster” invaded his garden.
The infestation is thought to have spread from a railway line behind the house and Mr Pember first noticed it in 2016 when it began encroaching on his garden. It rapidly developed into a nightmare scenario for the pensioner as the plant had grown more than 20 feet by 2020.
“It is a terrible plant, as it grows everywhere and grows to great heights, and you don’t know where it is going to come up,” Mr Pember told i.
“It started off so small that I didn’t think anything of it. But then it grew from nowhere to a point where it was almost coming inside the property. It was a worry and I thought, ‘will it come up in the kitchen?’
“You hear about this stuff completely taking over homes and I was terrified that might happen to mine.”
Records heard in court indicated that Transport for Wales, the railway board responsible for the land where the infestation originated, failed to adequately treat the growth that led to the eventual intrusion onto Mr Pember’s property.
His victory came at Pontypridd County Court after he enlisted the help of Liverpool based Angelus Law to fight his case. The judge granted almost £10,000 in damages to be paid by Transport for Wales to the pensioner.
Although Mr Pember is grateful for the legal support that led to the damages being awarded to him, he told i he fears the repercussions of the Japanese knotweed invasion could affect him for years, as well as having a negative impact on the value of his home.
He bought the property in 2012 for £60,000 – he doesn’t know what it is worth now, although fears the Japanese knotweed will have had a negative impact.
“I am worried that the value of my home will have gone down and people might not want to buy it as who wants to move into a property with a Japanese knotweed invasion,” he said.
Mr Pember is currently living in Trehafod, Rhondda Valley, while his son rents the troubled property, is concerned about the plant’s potential to resurge despite him investing in treatments which will cost around £800 each.
“Transport for Wales knew about the Japanese knotweed for a long time and they should have carried on treating it, but now it is taking over the entire area,” he said.
“When it began coming closer to the house, I was worried because I thought it was definitely coming inside. My son has since had the garden renovated, but it has already started coming back and it might not go away for years.
“The Japanese knotweed has left destruction in its path to the point where a graveyard local to the property is completely covered in it. You can’t even see the gravestones anymore, which is really sad.”
Mr Pember said his property remains at risk and the struggle with the plant could go on for years. “My message to others who might have a similar Japanese knotweed infestation is to get it sorted quickly otherwise you’ll pay the price. Also, if you’re about to buy a house, make sure it’s not there to begin with,” he said.
Tom Hardwick, director at Angelus Law in Liverpool, said: “We are delighted with the successful outcome of Mr Pember’s case.
“The victory showcases the importance of holding responsible parties accountable for their obligations to prevent the spread of such destructive plants.
“The damages awarded not only reflect the tangible losses suffered by homeowners like our client but also send a strong message about the necessity of proactive measures in tackling invasive species.”
A spokesperson for Transport for Wales said: “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.”