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A council in West Yorkshire is under fire for failing to clear ragwort in public areas this year.

Sheep farmer Stuart Jackson from Hepworth, near Holmfirth, has six horses, and although he regularly pulls the weed on his property, he claims ragwort from nearby public land is contaminating his farm.

Mr Jackson said Kirklees Council normally clears ragwort every year, but this year he was told the money would be redirected elsewhere.

“They were beginning to make inroads, but if they don’t clear every year we will be back to square one,” he said. “I even offered to clear the verge myself and send them the bill, but they just laughed.”

He added the council has a duty of care as ragwort is dangerous for animals.

Kirklees Council admitted clearing has stalled this year.

“For the past 10 years we have carried out a labour-intensive and costly removal programme of ragwort from the verges of Kirklees,” a spokesman said.

“It made no noticeable difference to ragwort levels so verges are now cut on request.”

She added that the verge Mr Jackson is concerned with is three miles long.

“It would need an immense amount of labour to hand pull each plant,” she said. “So we arranged for it to be cut.”

Show jumper John Whitaker, who lives nearby, said: “Ragwort is certainly a problem. I haven’t noticed it’s ever really been cleared, but I would welcome it if it was.”

As an injurious weed, ragwort is classified under the Weeds Act 1959. Under the act it is not an offence to have the weed growing on your property, but it must not spread to agricultural land.

Natural England advises anyone concerned about ragwort to visit: www.naturalengland.org.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (3 September, ’09)