The law relating to Ragwort in fields with horses

What is Ragwort and why is it a problem?

Ragwort is a weed which contains many different alkaloids, making it poisonous to animals, in particular horses. If Ragwort is eaten in sufficient quantities it can lead to health problems in horses.

There are different types of Ragwort. The most common type found in England and Wales is known as “Common Ragwort”. The Latin name for Common Ragwort is “sensecio jacobaea”.

What is the law relating to Ragwort?

The law relating to Ragwort is contained in the Weeds Act 1959 and the Ragwort Control Act 2003.

What powers does the Weeds Act 1959 give to the Secretary of State in relation to Ragwort?

Power to require an occupier to prevent the spreading of injurious weeds

The Weeds Act 1959 gives the Secretary of State the power to serve upon the occupier of land, where Ragwort (sensecio jacobaea) is growing, a written notice requiring the occupier of the land to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the Ragwort from spreading, within the time specified in the notice.

Where such a notice has been served and the occupier of the land unreasonably fails to comply with the requirements of the notice, the occupier commits a criminal offence and can be fined.

If, after fourteen days of the conviction, the occupier has still not complied with the requirements of the notice, the occupier commits a further criminal offence and can receive a further fine.

Powers of the Secretary of State where a notice has not been complied with

Where a notice has been served on the occupier of land and the occupier has not taken the action required by the notice within the time specified in the notice, the Secretary of State has the power to take the action required.

Where action is taken by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State is entitled to recover his reasonable costs of taking the action from the occupier of the land. If it is not reasonably practicable, after making reasonable enquiries to ascertain the name or address of the occupier and the occupier is not the owner of the land, such costs can be recovered from the owner of the land.

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For more information on:

  • Powers of entry
  • What powers does the Ragwort Control Act give to the Secretary of State?
  • Have any codes of practice been published?