Warning to keep clear of Giant Hogweed

THE public are being warned to avoid a stretch of waste land because it contains a dangerous plant.

Giant hogweed has been discovered in the old water meadow between Elder Way and North Hertfordshire College in Stevenage.

The invasive plant is regarded as a health hazard by the Environment Agency as it can give anyone who touches its clear sap severe burns and blistering.

The agency said this week: “We are aware that giant hogweed is growing in and around the Stevenage Brook at Elder Way. As the brook is a main river we have been spraying the giant hogweed there with an approved herbicide as part of our non-native invasive species control programme.

“However, the plant continues to flourish because its seeds spread from the adjacent land, over which we have no control and where it is not being treated.

“We would recommend that people stay away from giant hogweed and keep children and pets well clear of the plant as contact can cause severe skin blistering

Stevenage Borough Council says the land is not its responsibility. “We understand the land has recently been sold by Thames Water and we are currently working on identifying the new owner,” said a council spokesman.

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Thames Water was unable to reveal the new owners of the land at the time of going to press.

The problem of giant hogweed in Elder Way was revealed by Comet reader Francis Hale who said: “This is vile, vile stuff and needs to be cleared. It is dangerous and if people touch it their skin can blister and burn.”

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to plant or otherwise cause giant hogweed to grow in the wild. This includes spreading the species or transferring polluted ground material from one area to another.

Any giant hogweed-polluted soil or plant material that is discarded is classed as controlled waste and should be accompanied by a waste transfer permit.