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  • Pesticide-Free Cambridge

Pesticide-Free Cambridge Newsletter#1: May/June 2023

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

6 June 2023 -

Here's a quick summary of what we've been up to so far this spring / summer.

1. City Council Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP)

We continue to have monthly Working Group meetings which have been productive. A record can be found here with key discussion and action points.

Main development here is that following County's decision to stop all herbicide spraying on land it owns (for related news piece, see here), council has now followed suit and as of this spring the whole city is now effectively herbicide-free, with the exception of Local Authority housing estates outside the four herbicide-free trial wards (Newnham and Arbury from Spring 2022, with Trumpington and West Chesterton added earlier year). We are working on tackling ongoing spraying in the housing estates. There is a threat to make city centre an exclusion zone due to concerns about damage by mechanical weeding on historical hard surfaces. We are challenging this, and have referred the council to English Heritage which is now managing certain heritage sites in more nature-sensitive ways (see here for details).

2. Residents communications strategy

We're now working with the City council on a communications campaign targeted at residents' pesticide use on both private and public land, so as to compliment the HRP. We'll also be sending out our Pesticide-Free Guide for Residents, Schools and Businesses, which can be downloaded here. This deals with alternatives to common garden chemicals but also to insecticides used in and around the home. Alongside this we are planning further measures to tackle the serious problem of insecticidal powders (e,g., for ants) which have devastating impacts on human health and non-target wildlife, and pose particular accessibility and inclusion challenges to vulnerable groups.

Our documentation to schools including a letter co-signed by City Council and the combined authority Mayor, and our Pesticide-Free Guide will go out next week. Alongside this we are working with Cambridge City Council and On the Verge Cambridge to deliver the Eco Schools Environmental Education Programme as part of their Green Flag Award (for more details, see here and here; or a downloadable leaflet that went out to schools in May 2023, click here). We are making plans for a once-termly training session that schools can sign up to. We will be meeting with Eco Schools shortly to get pesticides better reflected in their certification criteria.

4. Urban pesticides as an inclusion and health equality issue

We are working with local organisations and disability advocacy groups to try to get pesticides better reflected in disability access policy and public-facing documentation in light of the disproportionate impact that pesticide exposure has on people with chronic illnesses such as ME/CFS and related hypersensitivity conditions.

We continue dialogue with Cambridge University's Biodiversity panel and the team responsible for the Bursar's combined colleges biodiversity report to try to get pesticides better reflected in their work. To that end, one of the actions of the the Herbicide Reduction Working Group is a planned workshop involving the university, colleges and key landowners in Cambridge to tackle pesticide use in a way that fits with the council's own movement towards biodiversity friendly landscaping practices. It is notable for example, that herbicides are still used on all of the university teaching campuses, and despite all the media fanfare about the Kings College wildflower meadow, including a recent report on its positive impact on biodiversity, 60% of the college's green spaces are still managed through bi-weekly mowing and excessive herbicide and fertiliser applications (see here for details).

6. Recent and Upcoming Events

  • We had stalls at the Strawberry Fair (3 June), and the Duxford Festival of Nature (20 May). Details on our Facebook page and Events blog.

  • Coton Orchard Bioblitz, 1-2nd July. This free, but ticketed, event is about to go live on the Coton Orchard events website. This is a joint Coton Orchard, On the Verge Cambridge and Pesticide-Free Cambridge event. Mammals, moths, butterflies, lichens, bats, bees - we'll be surveying them in this 100 year-old, pesticide-free orchard. This precious habitat will be ruined if the Cambourne to Cambridge busway goes ahead as planned.

One of the case-studies follows the impact of the HRP on local attitudes towards pesticides and urban nature in Cambridge. Questionnaires will go out to residents and schools next week. Details to follow.

Please get in touch with us via our social media channels if you have photos, news, events, actions in relation to pesticide-use in Cambridge that you'd like to share. You can also email us on

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