Furious farmer Philip Lee is faced with the spreading menace of common ragwort, but can do little to protect his 40 horses.
The field next to Mr Lee’s livery business in Seaton, East Durham, is overrun with the poisonous weed. But because the field is privately-owned, he cannot go onto it to remove the ragwort. South Sharpley Farm is owned by a Cornish power company and has stood unused since an application for three wind turbines was turned down last Christmas.
Now Mr Lee, of adjacent Haverley House Farm, says: “The ragwort is running riot. And my horses are separated from it only by the width of a barbed wire fence.”
Common ragwort is known to attack the liver of horses if eaten and is frequently fatal. Livestock such as cattle and sheep are also at risk.
Mr Lee adds: “The only thing I can do at the moment is rope it off and stretch my arm through the boundary fence to pull enough out to keep it out of reach of my horses.
“Everyone knows the danger it carries for horses. It’s a noxious weed and we are obliged under cost compliance laws to do something about it, otherwise they will come back at us for doing nothing.
“But what can I do? It’s something for the landowners or the council to do something about. I can’t.”
Cornwall Light and Power Ltd, based in Truro, purchased South Sharply four years ago and originally applied for nine wind turbines, later reducing the application to three. It already operated two turbines at nearby High Sharpley.
Durham County Council turned them down in December 2009 and on Christmas Eve that year wrote to Mr Lee to inform him.
“But since then nothing has happened,” Mr Lee said.
“There are about 80 acres and it’s covered in ragwort, which is spreading all the time. You can’t spray when there are horses around and if I did, it would cost about £2,000.
“I’ve made contact with CLP through our agent, but nothing at all has been done.”
Bob Morgan, development manager at CLP Wind Projects, who hoped to power 4,850 extra homes in the region, was unavailable for comment last night, but said in December: “We continue to believe that this site is well-suited for a wind power development.
“We remain optimistic that we can work with the local community to find a solution that the majority find acceptable.
“We will be exploring the available options before deciding what action to take in the New Year and will ensure that the local community is updated in due course.”
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