Gary Rycroft column

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Japan has been looming large in my life this week. My brother, who has lived there for 25 years, has said he’s popping home to Lancaster for Christmas and on the sofa on Rip Off Britain Live on BBC1 I’ve been talking about Japanese Knotweed.

A garden plant introduced from the Far East in 1825, Japanese Knotweed is a much maligned alien species in England, causing woe up and down the land, as it’s incredibly strong roots undermine buildings.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it’s an offence to plant it in the wild and under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it’s an offence to not dispose of it properly.

Disposing of it is quite a rigmarole that can cost a few quid. But spending the money is worth it because if you have Japanese Knotweed in your garden, or if it’s on land close to you, it can be an obstacle to selling your house, as in that case some mortgage lenders will not lend and it’s estimated to devalue property by around 15 per cent.

‘Blight’ is an emotive word in house sales and in fact like most problems in life there is solution if you have a Japanese Knotweed issue.

If you are selling a property you must disclose if you know you have Japanese Knotweed. However, you can overcome the potential problem by instigating an eradication programme and getting a warranty, though eradication can take 18 months or more. If you are buying a property, you do you not want to acquire a problem. So always have a survey.

Also, conveyancing searches are a way your solicitor acting in the purchase for you will discover potential “issues”. A Japanese Knotweed search is not one of the standard searches carried out, but one is available for commercial land and you may want your solicitor to carry one out for you even in a residential purchase, particularly if you are buying close to commercial property renowned for Japanese Knotweed, such as railway lines.

One thing is for sure – if my brother brings me a a big green potted plant from Japan for Christmas I will be disappointed to say the least and it will be returning with him from whence it came.