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The British Horse Society urges all Horse Owners to obtain Final Draft of Ragwort code

The British Horse Society (BHS) has welcomed the final draft of the Ragwort code of practice recently published by Defra. However, there still remains an area of concern over guideline distances for risk assessment. The Society urges all horse owners, along with landowners and other grazing animal owners, to obtain a copy of the code, and to submit their comments.

The initial draft code of practice to prevent the spread of Ragwort was launched at the Royal International Horse Show last July and has since undergone rigorous scrutiny by interested organisations, including the BHS, Local Government Authority, Network Rail, Highways Agency and several conservation groups.

The area that still concerns the BHS relates to distances given in the guidelines to assess high, medium and low risk infestations of Ragwort in regard to proximity to land used for grazing horses and other livestock, and land used for feed and/or forage production. The code suggests high risk is when > '> Ragwort is present and flowering/seeding within 50m of land used for grazing by horses and other animals or land used for feed/forage production> '> ; medium risk is when > '> Ragwort is present within 50m to 100m of land used for grazing by horses and other animals or land used for feed/forage production> '> ; and low risk is considered to be when > '> Ragwort, or the land on which it is present is more than 100m from land used for grazing by horses and other animals or land used for feed/forage production> '> .

The code then goes on to suggest that particular local circumstances should be taken into account when using the guidelines; however, the BHS still considers the parameters to be too narrow. The Society is asking any horse owner who has had problems with Ragwort growing outside of the suggested parameters, to provide evidence of that problem to Defra.

Although the BHS is pleased that the wording has been amended from the original draft to show that these distances are guidelines, it does not feel sufficient emphasis is given to that fact. Furthermore, the BHS fears that landowners/occupiers will hide behind these guidelines to avoid taking action, as has already been shown in correspondence sent to the BHS by a riding school proprietor last year.

All comments on the draft code of practice should be submitted by 9 June to Mrs Judith Marsden, Defra, Farm Focus Division, Area 2C, Ergon House, Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AL or by email to: judith.marsden@defra.gsi.gov.uk <mailto:judith.marsden@defra.gsi.gov.uk> Copies of the code can be downloaded from the Defra website: www.defra.gov.uk <http://www.defra.gov.uk>.

The BHS initiated the code of practice to prevent the spread of Ragwort, which is provided for in the Ragwort Control Act 2003. The Act was also initiated by the BHS, and the Society played a leading role in the steering group set up to produce the code.



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Updated: October 2005.