Ragwort Code of Practice unveiled

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael has urged landowners and occupiers to prevent the unnecessary poisoning of countless horses and other livestock each year by controlling ragwort spread.

The Minister joined British Horse Society chairman, Pat Campbell, at Hickstead’s Royal International Horse Show yesterday to launch a draft code of practice which will help control the spread of the poisonous weed on to agricultural or grazing land.

New enforcement procedures by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the Weeds Act will also mean that, in future, complaints about the threat the weed poses to horses will be given priority.

“The draft code provides clear guidance for all landowners and occupiers, including local authoritiesand statutory organisations, such as rail and waterways authorities on best practice in controlling ragwort,” said the Minister.

“By developing a strategic approach to control, organisations should be able to get better value for money fromtheir efforts and minimise spread from their land to farm and other land.”

The draft Code has been drawn up in preparation for the Ragwort Control Bill, currently before Parliament. The Bill would enable the Code to be used as evidence in enforcement proceedings under the Weeds Act.

Under that Act, the Secretary of State may serve a notice on an occupier of land on which injurious weeds are growing, requiring action to prevent their spread. It is an offence for the occupier to fail to comply.

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