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Herbicide use to end on Cambridge City Council’s parks and housing areas





Herbicide use is to be stopped on all city council-owned sites, including parks, car parks and housing areas, with mechanical sweepers and hand tools used to clear weeds instead.

City councillors agreed a new approach to managing the growth of vegetation in the city following trials of herbicide-free wards in Newnham, Arbury, West Chesterton and Trumpington.

Herbicide damage previously caused to grass verges by spraying in Newnham. Picture: Richard Marsham
Herbicide damage previously caused to grass verges by spraying in Newnham. Picture: Richard Marsham

Those trials will now conclude and the new approach adopted, which recommends that sweepers and tools such as hoes and weed ripper brushes are used.

Herbicides are known to be damaging for biodiversity and harmful to human health.

However, a meeting of the environment and community scrutiny committee on 21 March heard that the use of herbicides would remain in the council’s “arsenal” to use on “aggressive and intrusive” weeds.

The Labour-run city council is also consulting with Cambridgeshire County Council, which has responsibility for dealing with weeds on highways.

The county recently reversed its own policy of only physically removing weeds where they “presented a hazard or nuisance” and announced that using weed-killing chemicals would resume again on Cambridgeshire’s roads and paths. That decision followed complaints about weeds growing out of control and damage to highways surfaces.

Herbicide use is being reduced in Cambridge
Herbicide use is being reduced in Cambridge

The city council said it would be championing its desire to remain herbicide-free in its liaison with the county council as it shapes its new ‘highway operational standards for weeds’.

Cllr Sam Carling (Lab, West Chesterton), executive councillor for open spaces and city services, said: “Through this new methodology, we’ll be able to maintain a stronger street scene in a way that is healthier for residents, the environment, and our city’s ecosystems.

“The herbicide-free trial wards have shown us that it is possible to manage unwanted vegetation without having to resort to the use of herbicides. We will continue to engage with Cambridgeshire County Council with a view to using this methodology on the highways throughout Cambridge as well.

“The benefits to the environment and residents attached to this change in approach are significant, due to the disruptive impact herbicides have on our city’s plants and pollinators. By finding alternatives to their use, we are leading the way among local authorities in tackling the UK’s biodiversity decline.”

Jean Glasberg, now a Green councillor in Cambridge, expressed concern about herbicide damage to grass verges in Newnham. Picture: Richard Marsham
Jean Glasberg, now a Green councillor in Cambridge, expressed concern about herbicide damage to grass verges in Newnham. Picture: Richard Marsham

Cllr Jean Glasberg (Green, Newnham) told the committee meeting that most people she had spoken to welcomed the herbicide reduction trial and had given positive feedback.

And she welcomed the idea of trying to co-ordinate work with the county council.

Campaign group Pesticide-Free Cambridge said in a statement: “We are delighted with the progress of the herbicide reduction plan (HRP) and look forward to further collaboration with Cambridge City Council now that the purchase of a range of new equipment has been approved which will allow for the rollout of herbicide-free weed control across the city.

“It is important that residents are made aware of the interrelated ecological, public health and disability access justifications for the city council’s HRP, both so that its longevity is ensured through ongoing public support, but also to encourage a wider shift away from herbicides and insecticides on privately-owned land.

“A successful HRP will also strengthen the rationale for other stakeholders such as schools and colleges to go pesticide-free so as not to compromise the HRP.”



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