1 April 2022. Pesticide-Free Cambridge Press Release regarding suspected herbicide spraying in Newnham, one of Cambridge’s two herbicide-free trial wards. Along with the evidence for spraying in Abbey Ward, Cambridge City Council says they didn't do it. Like many other residents, we're eager to find out who did, and will hopefully get some answers at our meeting with the council on 7 April.
[see latest update, dated 6 April 2022, at the end of this Press Release]
On 1 April 2022, Julia Shaw and Ben Greig of Pesticide-Free Cambridge gave the following statement":
“We are shocked to learn that despite Cambridge City Council's commitment to a two-ward herbicide-free trial to begin this Spring in Newnham and Arbury in advance of a city-wide herbicide ban by the end of 2022, we have seen evidence of suspected spraying on the grassy verges along Newnham Road, and on pavement ‘weeds’ on some of the smaller residential streets in Newnham ward. Should this be confirmed, it goes against the terms of the council's own Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP) as well as its published commitments to not use herbicides on grassy verges anywhere in the city, and we are anxious to learn more about what has happened as soon as possible”.
“On Thursday (31/3/22) we received an interim response from a council spokesperson who told us:
‘the City Council has not started its spraying schedules as we are working on our commitments to publish our spraying routes on our website. We are investigating with the County Council as to whether this spraying relates to resurfacing works on some footpath across the City. When we know more we will update you. We are also investigating as to whether the yellowing is as a result of winter maintenance from salt and brine as the paths identified are treated in cold weather’.
“We are glad that the council is committed to holding off using herbicides in areas outside the two herbicide-free trial wards until it has published its spraying schedules, in keeping with agreements it made in last July’s Herbicide-free Motion. We are also very happy that the council’s street-adoption scheme has finally been launched so that residents have the chance to manage verges and pavement plants in their street without the use of harmful chemicals”.
“However, spraying clearly has already taken place in some parts of the city meaning that people have been unable to take advantage of these measures. For example, we have seen recent evidence for post-herbicide plant die-off along verges and on pavements on Barnwell road in Abbey, and we are keen to know under whose authority this spraying was carried out, if indeed it was not the City Council. Either way, it is imperative that the City Council issues
clear directives to other agencies about the need to honour its HRP so as to avoid any such suspected breaches of its terms”.
“Irrespective of who is responsible for the suspected spraying in both Newnham and Abbey, it is vital that residents are pre-warned given that visible evidence only shows up 10-14 days following glyphosate applications, during which time people risk coming into direct contact with chemicals that are known to be damaging to health. As children and those with allergies are particularly vulnerable, we have requested that no herbicide spraying is carried out during school drop-off and collection times, and we hope very much that this will be honoured”.
“We have also asked the council to launch an easily accessible online reporting system for irregular or irresponsible pesticide use and we are keen that this is enacted as soon as possible. It is ironic that its streets/parks website includes a reporting form for intrusive weeds but not for irresponsible use of chemicals that are toxic to humans and disastrous for biodiversity”.
“In the meantime, we urge residents to report all suspected contraventions of the HRP, for example spraying where no pre-warning has been given, and all spraying within Newnham and Arbury and any other areas that are declared herbicide-free, to the City Council's Environmental Services. Other instances of council spraying carried out that cause direct herbicide exposure to residents, or that present risks to operatives themselves, as for example when carried out without the use of PPE, as is the law, should be reported to the UK Health and Safety Executive. Reports can also be submitted in the same way for private applications of herbicides or insecticides, as in insecticidal dusting powder commonly used for ants, on public land such as pavements/streets bordering private properties, or even on private land if methods and conditions allow for drift into public spaces, or for direct exposure by passers by”.
[Update 6 April 2022. We have now learnt from the City Council that the spraying in Newnham and other locations across the city was carried out by a contractor for Cambridgeshire County Council which sprayed around 38 streets in advance of a 'pre-planned pavement resurfacing programme' . They informed us that:
'the Highways Maintenance Manager was part of the team that created the Herbicide Free Trial and had made the resurfacing contractor aware of [the] Trial but unfortunately this was not effectively communicated to operatives carry out the work. The County Council as partners in the Trial will be participating in the working group that has been established to support the Trial and give it the best opportunity to be a success, they too are committed to the Trial and are participating to determine whether they can use the Trial outcomes across the region'.
Whilst we are glad to get some clarity about who was responsible for the spraying in Newnham, clearly there is need for much better communication between the various agencies and contractors responsible for Cambridge's streets and open spaces, to ensure that the agreements made in last July's herbicide-free motion are not further compromised, and we look forward to our meeting with the council later this week to discuss additional ways of ensuring the trials are a success]
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