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Plants: Disease Control

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 27th June 2012.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

(1) how much her Department spent on controlling invasive non-native plants in the latest period for which figures are available; and how much she expects to spend in each of the next three years;

(2) what plans she has to provide funding for the future costs of control of non-native invasive plants and those identified as likely to become invasive in the future.

Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The direct cost of controlling invasive non-native plants primarily rests with landowners and the impacted sectors; examples are provided in the CABI report on the ‘Economic Cost of Invasive Non-native Species to Great Britain’. DEFRA directly funds some specific priority measures such as the development and release of a biological control agent for Japanese knotweed. The Department's contribution to that project to date is £309,234 with a further commitment of £75,000 until 2015. DEFRA is also funding further research into the biological control of invasive non-native plants.

Through water framework directive funding, DEFRA is also supporting partnership projects taking action on invasive non-native species locally as follows:

2011-12: £264,678;

2012-15: £977,761.

A proportion of this funding directly supports control of invasive non-native plants.

Other funding for direct control or collaborative projects which wholly or in part tackle invasive plants is provided through a range of bodies. With a few exceptions the funding often supports the management of a range of plant species and the specific cost of managing non-native plant species is not separately recorded. For example, the Environment Agency estimates that it spends approximately £1,700,000 per year on control of bank and in-water vegetation, with approximately £500,000 of this in connection with reducing flood risk.

Natural England funds the control of non-native plants through a variety of funding mechanisms, including the Higher Level Scheme within Environmental Stewardship. As of June 2012, Natural England expects to provide a total of £2,100,000 over the life of the agreements (which last up to 10 years).

Natural England has provided £257,000 to local projects aimed and controlling invasive plants during 2011-12 and forecasts £150,000 for 2012-13. This is also a key activity under the Conservation Enhancement Scheme funded from Natural England's grant in aid; however, non-native species costs are not separately identifiable.

From 2009-10 to 2011-12 the Food and Environment Research Agency has spent £2,075,000 on the removal of Rhododendron ponticum to reduce the risks from Phytophthora ramorum. Natural England has also provided approximately £50,000 in 2011-12 for the control of this species on Sites of Species Scientific Interest and expects to spend a further £1,300,000 over the next three years through capital funding for the Conservation Enhancement Scheme. Funding for rhododendron control is also provided through the Forestry Commission's Woodland Grant Scheme.

It is expected that broadly similar levels of expenditure are likely to be required in future years, subject to significant new developments such as new threats or the need for the development of more ambitious control programmes. DEFRA will seek to support action on preventing new priority threats but, given the unpredictability of these, it is not possible to be more specific about the level of funding that might be required. Any additional expenditure would require re-prioritisation within existing budgets.

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