A new approach to controlling invasive non-native plants and animals

New powers to control and eradicate invasive non-native plants and animals are introduced as the Infrastructure Act 2015 receives Royal Assent, giving effect to reforms recommended by the Law Commission.

Invasive non-native species cause environmental and economic damage. They pose a significant threat to ecosystems as well as damaging property and infrastructure. Existing law does not contain sufficient powers to allow for their timely and effective control or eradication.

The Infrastructure Act 2015 will give the relevant environmental authorities in England and Wales the power to issue species control orders. These orders will make it possible to compel land owners or occupiers to carry out control or eradication operations, or allow them to be carried out by the issuing authority.

The orders may be issued only:

  • when it has been impossible to reach an agreement with the owner or occupier or action is urgently required, and
  • where the plant or animal has been identified as both “invasive” (a serious threat to biodiversity, the economy or other social or economic interests) and “non-native” or “no longer normally present in Great Britain”.

Before issuing a species control order, the environmental authority must also be satisfied that the provisions of the order are proportionate to the objective to be achieved.

Breaching a species control order will be a criminal offence, but owners or occupiers will have the right to appeal to a tribunal and, where relevant, may be compensated for any damage caused by the eradication work.

Nicholas Paines QC, Law Commissioner for public law, said:

“Species control orders are a proportionate and necessary response to an increasing problem. Invasive non-native species are a threat to biodiversity. Early detection and eradication are essential to protect native species and minimise damage to the environment. There is also an economic price to pay, with some invasive plants and animals capable of causing significant damage to property and costing a great deal to control and remove.

“It is in everyone’s interest if the relevant environmental authorities and landowners can reach an agreement that allows for invasive non-native species to be eradicated or controlled. But where this is not possible, species control orders offer a fair solution. We are delighted that government has given effect to our recommendation to introduce these news powers.”

Notes for editors
1. The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.

2. Species control orders derive from recommendations made in the Law Commission’s report: Wildlife Law: Control of Invasive Non-native Species, published 11 February 2014. They are given effect in Section 23 of the Infrastructure Act 2015.

3. Authorities entitled to issue species control orders. In England: the Secretary of State, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commissioners. In Wales: the Welsh Ministers and Natural Resources Wales.

4. For more details on this project, visit www.lawcom.gov.uk

5. For all press queries please contact:

Phil Hodgson, Head of External Relations:  020 3334 3305

Jackie Samuel:  020 3334 3648

Email:  communications@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk