Homeowners in South Yorkshire blighted by Japanese knotweed spreading to their property from public land are being assured that help is at hand.
Network Rail was last week ordered to pay compensation for damage caused to homes by the invasive weed spreading from a railway embankment.
The landmark court ruling could alter the legal landscape for people living near open land and help raise awareness of the potential for problems.
But experts say property owners have no need to panic and insist solutions can be found.
The rail giant was sued after knotweed growing on its land spread to the foundations of nearby homes in South Wales.
Neighbours claimed the value of their properties has been badly affected by the destructive plant, which has roots that can force their way through existing weaknesses in brick and concrete.
In what is being seen as a key test case, the Government body was ordered to pay compensation along with the cost of treating the issue.
It is now reviewing the judgement but the Property Care Association - which represents professionals in the invasive weed control industry - says the ruling is likely to have major implications across the UK.
Steve Hodgson, chief executive of the national trade body, said: “This could change the landscape for bodies responsible for public land and those living nearby.
“Knotweed can have a hugely damaging effect on the urban environment and plants growing on open land could spread to neighbouring properties.
“Landowners should now be acutely aware of their responsibilities under the Wildlife and Countryside Act – if they weren’t already – and that’s good news for homeowners.
“But if people living near public land do suspect invasive species have spread to their property, it’s important to know there are answers.”
The PCA says talking to the landowner is usually the first step before approaching experts for advice.
Mr Hodgson added: “Working together is always the best approach but if landowners are unresponsive or fail to act to remove a damaging nuisance professionally, this ruling will probably empower more people to consider a legal remedy.
“Japanese knotweed can, in fact, often be identified and treated with minimal impact but its effective eradication is a job for the experts and I’d urge anyone who thinks they might have an issue to seek professional advice.
“Expert companies will assess the situation properly, draw up an appropriate management plan, carry out any required work and provide insurance-backed guarantees if required.”
The PCA set up the Invasive Weed Control group in 2012 to act as a source of competent and trained contractors and consultants.
Membership delivers an assurance of expertise in the control and management of invasive species, and demonstrates companies within the group are qualified to deliver efficient, effective and reliable treatment.
The PCA works extensively to raise standards in this area and has developed a comprehensive training programme to further enhance technical competence across the sector.
It has also produced a guide providing a comprehensive picture of the main issues surrounding knotweed.
Along with information on how to recognise Japanese knotweed, characterised by distinctive red stems emerging from the ground, it provides a list of useful ‘dos and don’ts’ along with details of preventative and control measures.
A list of member companies within the Invasive Weed Control Group, together with the guide, is available via the PCA website www.property-care.org