Legislation to control common ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, in England and Wales is likely to receive Royal Assent next week.
It will provide statutory backing to a new draft code of practice
for the control of the species, which can poison grazing animals, particularly horses. The British Horse Society estimated 500 horses died of ragwort poisoning in 2001.
The object of the Ragwort Control Bill is to provide legislation to make provision for a code of practice to control the spread of ragwort and to ensure such a code will
be “admissible in evidence” in enforcement proceedings under the Weeds Act 1959.
The Act gives the Government the right to serve notice on land containing ragwort (and spear thistle, creeping thistle, curled dock and broad-leaved dock) to make landowners take steps to stop the weed spreading. This could be used in court either in evidence against a landowner who has failed to take action, or in a landowner’s defence if the code has been followed.
However, wild plant charity Plantlife has said the Bill may increase herbicide use. Its Ragwort Position Statement said the scale of the problem is unknown — the National Trust has never experienced a ragwort problem — and more emphasis should be placed on good pasture management to avoid proliferation of the weed.
The Ragwort Control Bill is likely to become law in February next year.
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