Japanese Knotweed spreads alarmingly quickly and has deep roots which make it almost impossible to remove once it has set in. It has a reputation for destroying the foundations of buildings and drastically decreasing their value. Homeowners are terrified that it might make its way from a neighbour’s garden into theirs: no wonder that, according to GoodMove’s 2020 study, the third most common cause of neighbour disputes was ‘plants’. All of this makes it a little ironic, therefore, that Japanese Knotwood is also an anti-inflammatory and can be used to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of joint disease, burns, and sore throats. In other words, while homeowners regard Japanese Knotwood warily for its propensity to inflict pain, the plant itself can actually relieve it.
Many disputes begin when a homeowner refuses to pay for the treatment or containment of their Japanese Knotweed and thus allow it to spread into their neighbours’ gardens. What happens, however, when you actually foot the bill for the treatment of your neighbour’s Knotweed, only for that neighbour to begin acting in a hostile manner? The previous negligence of the Japanese Knotweed problem is compounded with your neighbours’ active spreading of the Knotwood seed into your garden, along with pouring concrete into it and dumping building materials into it. What do you do when your neighbour has damaged your roof, fence, telephone line, felled your trees, and even acted in a violent manner towards you?
Unfortunately, this is the current situation for one of our clients. Whilst it sounds shocking, contentious neighbourly disputes are sadly quite common and have only been exacerbated by Covid-19 necessitated lockdowns. Several organisations which deal in mediating disputes between neighbours, like Calm Mediation and Scottish Mediation, launched hotlines to deal specifically with arguments resulting from coronavirus lockdowns.
The Guardian ran an article in peak lockdown last year titled, ‘Like the English Civil War’, quoting one ‘concerned retiree’ on strained community relations. If your neighbour was intentionally damaging your property and becoming physically violent with you, it could indeed feel like someone was waging war on you, especially within the restrictive conditions of lockdown.
The important thing to remember is that no-one should have to put up with abuse. Everyone has the right to feel safe, especially in their own home. No matter the demand of lockdown or the expenses incurred by removing Knotweed, aggression is never the answer.
Despite the intimidation our client has faced, they still wish to resolve the matter through mediation, hoping they can find a way to see eye-to-eye with their neighbour. Conflict happens and communication breaks down; that’s just a part of life – but it doesn’t always have to be the end. The Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution website says that ‘mediation provides an opportunity for people to communicate better, to understand one another’s concerns, and to jointly come up with ideas for how to end their dispute.’ In fact, mediation is rather like pain-relief; and just like Japanese Knotweed can reduce inflammation, mediation aims to take the fire out of difficult disputes. We hope our client’s neighbour comes to see the value of it too.