Tread carefully with Giant Hogweed urges trade body

National trade body The Property Care Association (PCA) is urging local authorities, statutory bodies, landowners and property professionals to treat Giant Hogweed with caution.

In recent weeks the invasive weed has been in the media spotlight, with incidents of injuries being reported, including to children.

The numbers of injuries could be set to increase as children roam affected areas in the summer holidays. There’s also a risk of injury to those tasked with removing the plant, unless correct safety measures are introduced.

Giant Hogweed sap is extremely toxic to the skin in sunlight, making it a serious and significant danger to public health.

Contact with any part of the plant, followed by exposure to sunlight, can cause severe blistering to the skin and discomfort, the latter possibly recurring over a number of years.

Stephen Hodgson, Chief Executive of the PCA, said: “Giant Hogweed is widespread and the problems it can cause are certainly not insignificant.

“Children in particular are going to come across it in the summer holiday period.

“The general public, as well as local authorities, statutory agencies and landowners on whose property people can come into contact with the plant need to be aware of the risks.

“Giant Hogweed needs to be controlled and managed professionally.”

Further information on the plant is now available in the form of a guidance note from the PCA.

Chairman of the PCA’s specialist Invasive Weed Control Group, Professor Max Wade, and fellow senior ecologist Dr Mark Fennell, have shared their expertise to produce detailed information covering this species of non-native plant.

History and identification, the impact of Giant Hogweed, and details of control methods are all discussed – and further guidance is also offered on the health risks associated with this invasive weed.

Professor Max Wade said: “There are a number of factors operating together as to why the health issues of Giant Hogweed have increased recently.

“There is greater awareness of this invasive non-native plant, which is still spreading, and hence is found in more locations.

“Given the recent warm weather, people including children have, as a result, been in contact with the plant when in the sunshine.

“As the chemical in Giant Hogweed, a furanocoumarin, needs bright light to react with the skin and cause blistering and other health problems, this is the type of environment where problems can ensure.”

Giant Hogweed, along with the more widely known Japanese Knotweed, is increasingly coming under the spotlight of land and property professionals.

This is due in part to the reformed Anti-social Behaviour (ASBO), Crime and Policing Act 2014, and associated Community Protection Notices, which could be issued to necessitate landowners to deal with Japanese knotweed. 

This could see fines of up to £20,000 imposed for companies failing to tackle the problem. Individuals would also be forced to comply too, or face a fine of up to £2,500.

Furthermore, as well as the ASBO legislation, new EU regulations have been introduced which could result in fines of thousands of pounds and prosecution if invasive plants such as these are not managed appropriately and in a timely fashion.

The EU regulations, which came into effect in January, will empower government agencies to issue Control Orders that necessitate the removal of high risk invasive weed species from specified areas, which could potentially include derelict sites, public land, construction sites and neighbouring properties.

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