• Pesticide-Free Cambridge

Pesticide-Free Cambridge - Public questions at council meetings



Record of our public questions (and answers where received) to Cambridge City Council committee meetings, 2020-2022





6 October 2022: PFC submitted Public questions to Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting


"Dear Democratic Services
Pesticide-Free Cambridge would like to submit the following question and follow-up question to the Environment & Community Security Committee meeting this Thursday 6th October. Sorry we can't appear in person. We trust it is possible for our questions to be put to the committee, responses recorded and minuted.
*** From Pesticide-Free Cambridge: Can the Executive Cllr update us on the herbicide free trial wards and confirm, as per the council motion passed in 2021, that this autumn is the very last time that Cambridge City Council uses herbicide routinely on the verges, gutters and pavements that it manages for the County Council? Follow-up question Can the Executive Cllr update us on the methods that the Operations Team have found successful in managing the two herbicide-free wards Arbury and Newnham? ***

Answers were provided during the meeting. The recording is available via Agenda for Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, 6th October, 2022, 5.30 pm - Cambridge Council


About 20.45 our questions are read out by James Godard. Cllr Alex Collis replies. She reports that there have been very few complaints and that the trials are going well. Some challenges around Operatives mentioned. Happy Bee street take up low. Promise of end of year review. Still no explicit commitment to rolling out the herbicide free trials acrso the city by the end of the year.


30 June 2022: PFC Public questions to ECSC meeting


"Dear Democratic Services
We, Pesticide-Free Cambridge wish to submit questions at the forthcoming Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee meeting this Thursday. As we are likely to be working at the time it is unlikely we can attend in person or on zoom, but we would very much appreciate it if the questions could be read out, addressed and answered both at the meeting and the answers sent to us afterwards.
Please see our questions below
***
We are disappointed to note that yet again our public questions to the last ECSC meeting on 24 March (https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=476&MId=3971&Ver=4) remain unanswered. Can we please have a written response to our questions regarding herbicide spraying during the school commute time, ongoing spraying around trees and on grassy verges, all of which contravene agreements already made surrounding the Herbicide Reduction Plan?
Can you clarify please what's happening with the online reporting system for irregular herbicide use across the city, both by council operatives and members of the public? This was one of the action points at recent Herbicide Reduction Plan Working Group meetings (12.5.22 and 7.4.22) and it’s crucial that residents are able to report instances of pesticide use that contravene terms of the council’s Herbicide Reduction Scheme. What plans are there for a council-led information campaign about the biodiversity and health impacts of pesticide use? For example, what has been decided regarding signage to indicate where herbicides have been applied? Has signage now been erected in herbicide-free wards to notify residents in Arbury and Newnham of the trials? If so, by what other means will the council notify the residents of these wards? Will the council issue guidance for the public to reassure them that, in herbicide-free wards and Happy Bee streets, gutters will still be maintained by the council? Likewise, will they issue guidance for Happy Bee street groups about what exactly they should be responsible for? ( e.g. pavement plants yes but overhanging plants from gardens no, nor need they clear the gutters). What methods are city council ops using in Herbicide-free wards in the gutter, the pavement and the verges instead of spraying, bearing in mind the policy not to strim around trees any more? Happy Bee Streets - what progress has been made in streamlining the application process i.e. to cut out the requirement for two references and ID and for everyone involved being required to sign up? We know that this over-complicated system is deterring individuals and groups from applying. What balance of complaints and compliments has the council received regarding the herbicide-free wards so far?"


Details of response: We were informed that there was no time for the qs to be answered during the meeting. Links to URL and minutes to follow.



26 May 2022: PFC public questions for Environment and Community Scrutiny Meeting 26 May 2022

"At our recent Herbicide Reduction Scheme Working group meeting on 12/5/22, and on a previous meeting between Pesticide-Free Cambridge and Environmental Services on 7/4/22 (https://www.pesticidefreecambridge.org/post/record-of-our-meetings-with-councillors-schools-and-partners-groups), a number of commitments were made including:
i) No council herbicide spraying to take place during school commute time (8.00-9.00, 15.00-16.00)
ii) No council spraying to take place around trees;
iii) No council spraying on grassy verges;
iv) No council spraying in parks/open-spaces;
v) No private-application of pesticides on municipal land.
However, with regards point 1, since then we have received reports of City Council spraying of herbicides on two occasions in the middle of the school commute. The first at 8.01 am, 7/4/22 on Coldham’s Lane roundabout, and the second at 8.17 am, 18/5/22 on Mowbray Road (around the junction with Glebe Road ) and Holbrook Road. On both occasions, the surrounding roads and pavements were teeming with children and families, being as they are major commuting routes to a number of schools in the area. Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic and endocrine disrupting impacts of glyphosate, and pesticides in general. This is why we've asked that schools be informed in advance of spraying and to avoid all spraying during the time when children are walking or cycling to and from school. We took recent assurances made to us that this is now part of council policy at face value, the logical conclusion being that parents can safely assume that their children are no longer at risk of coming into direct contact with herbicides as they're being sprayed (clearly this doesn't preclude them from coming into contact with herbicides in the two weeks that it takes for visual evidence to show up, hence our having campaigned repeatedly for signage to be put up immediately after spraying). It isn't enough to avoid the roads immediately outside schools as obviously children have to get to school from all over the city. Can you confirm please that no further council spraying will take place anywherein the city during the school commute period?
Regarding point 2, we have seen evidence of spraying around trees in several areas across the city and have sent photographic evidence to the biodiversity team. Can you please clarify why spraying is still happening around trees when it’s been decided that this shouldn’t be taking place?
Point 3.Verge spraying is clearly taking place all over the city. During early meetings with the previous Executive Councillor and operatives in 2020 we were told that verges were no longer being sprayed, and that there was little reason for our pesticide-free campaign, and yet since then we've had three years of ongoing and obvious spraying on pretty much every verge. Council websites repeat the same thing, that no verges or soft surfaces are sprayed (https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/report-weeds-or-invasive-plants), but this clearly isn't the case. We are aware that spraying by the County Council unfortunately took place in March before the City Council had communicated to them the terms of its Herbicide Reduction Plan (https://www.pesticidefreecambridge.org/post/herbicide-spraying-in-cambridge-s-herbicide-free-ward-pfc-press-release). But the above-mentioned evidence clearly relates to more recent spraying. Can you please clarify what is happening here as this again seems to be a clear contravention of what's been decided?
Can you clarify please what's happening with the online reporting system for irregular herbicide use across the city, both by council operatives and members of the public? This was one of the action points at the meeting on 7.4.22 and it’s crucial that residents are able to report instances of pesticide use that contravene the council’s Herbicide Reduction Scheme.
Finally, what has been decided regarding signage to indicate where herbicides have been applied?


Response received by email 30 June, Alistair Wilson

"I am checking with Committee Services as to what happened to the questions. I note in the published agenda for that meeting that there was no provision for public questions as the meeting was relating the appointment of Councillors to roles.
At the current time we are not applying herbicides and the data collected from the first application is being configured to allow us to predetermine future routes and give indication on timings. When we mobilise for any second application (if we do), we will again be vivid with those staff applying herbicides of the importance of avoiding school routes and times. We can discuss the no application principle when we next meet and I suspect that this could be achieved.
The spraying around trees should not be happening, and as we have not applied any further herbicides since our 16th May, we would welcome any reports where this is evident. The number of incidences of spraying by residents is understood to be low level, but we did commit to an online reporting form on the website. This is something that is in the work schedules to do. The current focus is around higher priority items, such as the Happy Bee sign ups and online schedules of spraying treatments.
The use of signs ahead of spraying is not achievable as we are not resourced to facilitate this, instead our focus has been around building schedules and signposting to these by use of social media.
Best wishes
Alistair

Links to URLs and minutes to follow


24 March 2022

We asked public questions about the two-ward herbicide free trials in Newnham and Arbury and the city-wide street adoption scheme at today's Cambridge City Council Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting. Unfortunately there wasn't time for them to be read out in the end but we'll post the written responses that we've been promised when we receive them.


Further to the last ECSC meeting in January, and the council’s formal launch of its Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP), and Herbicide-Free Streets (HFS) scheme, it concerns us greatly that there has been no mention since that meeting of progress regarding the two-ward herbicide free trials planned to begin in Newnham and Arbury this Spring. We also have heard nothing about the Working Group that was committed to in January nor of the precise wording of the Herbicide-Free Streets adoption scheme or indeed the overall communications strategy for the HRP.

1. Can we have an update on the two-ward herbicide free trials please? When precisely will these start and what kinds of community consultation are being planned around these?

2. When will the working group be set up? Who will sit on it, and who will be taking the lead?

3. On streets that have been adopted as part of the HFS scheme will residents be obliged to remove all weeds, or will some be allowed to flourish if they don’t present a trip hazard, in recognition of recent research that shows that urban weeds can be more important for insect pollinators than planted wildflower meadows?

4. When will the Herbicide-Free streets webpage be made available to inform residents about how they can opt in to the street adoption scheme? We are concerned that it is nearly Spring and this information still hasn’t been made available.

5. Will your online communications make it clear that members of the public should not be using herbicides or any other pesticides on council land, for example insecticidal dusting powder commonly used for ants, on pavements and streets that border private gardens? How can residents report such instances of pesticide-free breaches?

6. Will the council highlight in its communications the public health dimension of pesticide exposure in addition to its links to biodiversity breakdown so that people better understand the rationale behind the HRP?

7. Will you post herbicide spraying schedules in advance of spraying or at least at the time it happens, in keeping with commitments made in last July’s herbicide-free motion to protect the health of residents and particularly those with existing allergies for whom pesticide-exposure presents additional risks?

8. Will you at the very least, ensure that schools are pre-warned of herbicide spraying in their vicinity, and will operatives be advised to avoid spraying at school drop-off and collection times (e.g., 8.00-9.30 am, and 2.30-4.00 pm) given childrens’ heightened vulnerability to the toxic impacts of chemical exposure?

9. We were pleased by the response to our question at the last ECSC meeting that herbicide spraying operatives will now be required to wear full PPE as is the law. Can you confirm that this requirement will now be enforced? Can you also explain why it has not been enforced until now**



** We find this particularly relevant given that Cambridge City Council in its response to a Freedom of Information request in April 2021 (https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/media/9861/foi-request-8963.pdf), stated implicitly that ‘the Poisonous Substances in Agriculture Regulations 1985, the Health and Safety at Work Act and various other Acts impose a statutory requirement for appropriate protective clothing to be worn by personnel working with Pesticides’.


Answers provided by email from Alistair Wilson on 28 June 2022


1. Can we have an update on the two-ward herbicide free trials please? When precisely will these start and what kinds of community consultation are being planned around these?

The herbicide free wards were approved in January, and we have prepared an article for the City Matters publication. The new website content gives further information and an opportunity to give feedback. There will be series of social media posts and Officers have already attended North Area Committee.




2. When will the working group be set up? Who will sit on it, and who will be taking the lead?

The Working Group will be set up in April, and comprise Officers from Streets and Open Space, myself and the lead point of contact will be Robert Martyr.

3. On streets that have been adopted as part of the HFS scheme will residents be obliged to remove all weeds, or will some be allowed to flourish if they don’t present a trip hazard, in recognition of recent research that shows that urban weeds can be more important for insect pollinators than planted wildflower meadows?

There is no obligation to remove all weed growth from Herbicide Free Streets. There is however an expectation to

· Keep the area free of weeds, without using herbicides

· Apply to become a Streets and Open Spaces volunteer

· Work with your neighbours to ensure your Happy Bee street is a success

· Look at other ways to improve your neighbourhood, such as:

o Planting wildflowers and creating areas for wildlife

o Pruning shrub areas

o Picking up litter and removing graffiti

· Consider joining other Streets and Open Spaces volunteer activities

4. When will the Herbicide-Free streets webpage be made available to inform residents about how they can opt in to the street adoption scheme? We are concerned that it is nearly Spring and this information still hasn’t been made available.

The webpages will be live next week if not already. There is currently a webpage which explains the restricted use of herbicides.

5. Will your online communications make it clear that members of the public should not be using herbicides or any other pesticides on council land, for example insecticidal dusting powder commonly used for ants, on pavements and streets that border private gardens? How can residents report such instances of pesticide-free breaches?

We will not be including this information on the website because the City Council is not the owner of the highway and therefore has no enforcement powers in this respect. The County Council are partners in this trial and at this time, the use of herbicide by residents has not presented itself as an issue. We will of course review this during the trial.

6. Will the council highlight in its communications the public health dimension of pesticide exposure in addition to its links to biodiversity breakdown so that people better understand the rationale behind the HRP?

The background reports to herbicide trial are available to those wishing to research the context of the HFT. The webpage content advice when we drafted was that most people read about 20% of content so therefore, we have not included this in the webpages at this time.

7. Will you post herbicide spraying schedules in advance of spraying or at least at the time it happens, in keeping with commitments made in last July’s herbicide-free motion to protect the health of residents and particularly those with existing allergies for whom pesticide-exposure presents additional risks?

We have prepared a web resource so that residents can track our progress in following a sequenced order of our herbicide spraying.

8. Will you at the very least, ensure that schools are pre-warned of herbicide spraying in their vicinity, and will operatives be advised to avoid spraying at school drop-off and collection times (e.g., 8.00-9.30 am, and 2.30-4.00 pm) given childrens’ heightened vulnerability to the toxic impacts of chemical exposure?

The web resource schedule will be available, and I am advise that we already avoid school drop off and collection times.

9. We were pleased by the response to our question at the last ECSC meeting that herbicide spraying operatives will now be required to wear full PPE as is the law. Can you confirm that this requirement will now be enforced? Can you also explain why it has not been enforced until now?

All staff are issued a risk assessment and with full PPE and there is a requirement for them to follow the instructions. If there are incidence where this is not being followed, if they are reported to us, we will investigate, and appropriate actions will be taken.

Links to URLS and minutes to follow



25 January 2022

PFC submitted the following public questions for the Cambridge Council Environment and Community Scrutiny Meeting, to be held on 27 January 2022, in relation to their recently published Herbicide Reduction Plan which was shared with us a few days ago.

We reiterate our firm commitment to working with the City Council to make Cambridge pesticide-free, starting with a complete end to herbicide use on land owned or managed by the City Council. In addition, we remain committed to working with communities, groups and residents to make this happen as quickly and as effectively as possible. Naturally we welcome the Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP) and the Herbicide-Free Streets proposal. However, we are disappointed to note that we still have had no response to our minuted questions to the ECSC meeting on 7th October 2021 (https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/documents/g3969/Printed%20minutes%2007th-Oct-2021%2017.30%20Environment%20and%20Community%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=1), or to our follow up email to councillors on 10 December 2021


We have the following questions for the ECSC meeting on 27 January 2022.

  1. Although the pesticide free motion of 22 July stated that the council would work directly with Pesticide-Free Cambridge over the planned herbicide free trials, to date we have only had informal talks with the Biodiversity team, and we have not been included in any formal discussion with the council. When will Pesticide-Free Cambridge be invited to join a working group to monitor the progress of the ward trials and herbicide-free streets, and to have input into related information campaigns and websites?

  2. When will the city council start to post notices of when herbicide spraying is due to take place across all those wards and streets that are NOT being included in the HRP and to erect information signage in areas that are undergoing herbicide-free trials? 3. Will the city council operatives wear full PPE, as is legally required, when spraying herbicides?

  3. Will steps be taken to include specific reference to the human health impacts of pesticide exposure in the HRP? We are concerned that the only health impacts mentioned in the current document are those connected with trip hazards posed by urban plants.


7 Oct 2021

PFC submitted public questions to the Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday 7th October 2021. We were informed afterwards that they weren’t read out during the meeting due to lack of time but that we should receive a written response soon. These were minuted (https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/documents/g3969/Printed%20minutes%2007th-Oct-2021%2017.30%20Environment%20and%20Community%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=1) but despite follow up emails in December, as of Jan 2022 we still have received no formal response.

We, Pesticide-Free Cambridge, wish to ask the following questions at the upcoming Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee meeting this Thursday 7th October. We are unable to attend in person but would be very grateful if the questions can be submitted and put to the committee as per the democratic process. Do get in touch with us if anything is unclear.

We at Pesticide-Free Cambridge were happy that in the passing of Cllrs Porrer and Payne’s motion at the Full Council on 22 July, albeit with amendments, meant that we had, in principal, a statement of intent from the Council to explore herbicide-free alternatives for weed control in two wards before the next spraying season of this year (Sept 2021), in consultation with us at Pesticide-Free Cambridge, with the view to stopping all herbicide-use across the city by the end of 2022.

1. We have had some informal discussions with members of the Biodiversity team at Cambridge City Council about the best herbicide-free alternatives for the focused trial that they are running. For the subsequent two-ward trial, we have suggested both Arbury and Abbey as potential wards for the larger trial, along with Newnham, and have had support from Councillors in these wards, but have not yet received any information about formal decision making. Can the Council let us know whether a decision has been made over choice of trial wards, and when Pesticide-Free Cambridge will be included in related discussions?

2. Can the Council clarify why in a recent communication from Streets and Open Space they refer to herbicide-free alternatives currently being sought 'before the start of the 2022 cycle of treatments', given that it was agreed in the July motion that these would take place in the then-next spraying cycle of autumn 2021. Does this mean that city-wide herbicide spraying has already taken place in September, and have any wards been left out of the spraying schedule?

3. Could the Council confirm when the signage and information warning residents about planned spraying programmes will be actioned, given that the agreed motion promised to 'to explore the most effective methods of communicating with residents (and any additional resource implications) about any necessary herbicide applications, which may include the following commitments: ‘publishing the planned dates of herbicide treatments by road/ward for the remainder of 2021 and thereafter on the council’s website'. We consider this to be a minimum step towards reducing residents’ direct exposure to toxic glyphosate during the 5-10 days that it takes for plant die-off to occur.





8 July 2021

Responses to our questions submitted to Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting (1 July) received as follows (answers in Bold). See published Minutes here for further details.








1 July 2021

PFC have submitted seven questions about the new Biodiversity Strategy and Toolkit for today's Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee meeting (https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=476&MId=3968&Ver=4 ). Our questions relate to the draft Biodiversity strategy document which following today's vote should go out for an eight-week consultation (PFC is on the list of consultees) for amendment/approval in October 2021

.

PFC QUESTIONS TO COMMITTEE

Q1 In light of the Council’s commitment to phasing out herbicides (see key targets pp 58-59 in the Draft Biodiversity Strategy document,(1) the 2019 Pesticides motion as well as the Biodiversity and Climate Emergency declarations, also 2019), will the council add an actual date by which it aims to complete this process?

Q2 Will the Council share and include details of which herbicide-free alternatives it has trialled already and which ones it is looking in to?

Q3 In the absence of a specific date to end herbicide use, and the fact that Pesticide-Free Cambridge has considerable local public support including several Residents Associations and Friends groups, while our petition has over 500 signatures,(2) and also because different methods may be called for in different areas, will the council agree to a trial, in the upcoming spraying season, herbicide-free methods in selected wards with different demographics and social needs (e.g., Newnham and Arbury/Kings Hedges and/or Abbey) to see what works best in different contexts?

Q4 In light of Ecological Public Health(3) arguments regarding the entwined human and environmental impacts of the destruction of nature and over-use of chemicals, together with robust evidence for the damaging impacts of herbicides on human health, and several successful court cases in recent years that have awarded damages to operatives injured through contact with glyphosate, will the council i) add explicit reference to the direct impact of pesticides on human health as well as air quality to its Biodiversity Strategy document which lacks any such emphases in its current form (although there are references to other sources of air pollution); ii) supply the spraying operatives with full PPE; iii) erect signage to indicate where spraying has taken place; iv) publish a schedule of when spraying will happen to alert the public? And v) conversely, erect signage in areas left unsprayed and unmown to let the public know this is being done for the benefit of biodiversity and public health (building therefore on existing plans outlined on p. 58 to ‘[raise] public awareness of ecologically sensitive weed management practices’)?

Q5 The draft document (p. 59) refers to plans to encourage the Public to stop using pesticides in gardens, allotments and ‘other’ areas. Can the council clarify what they mean by ‘other’ areas and will this category include instances where private pesticide use (both herbicides and insecticides) impacts on public land either through drift, or through direct application of pesticides on public land? And by extension, if the Council is to stop using pesticides on land it owns or manages on behalf of the County Council, will it also prohibit the private use of pesticides on these areas, for example on pavements/roads that directly abut private properties)?

Q6 In addition to committing to tackling public use of pesticides, will the Council also add explicit reference in its draft document to the need for it to work with local schools, businesses and the universities, so as to eliminate both herbicides and insecticides in these contexts too?

Q7 Will the council acknowledge the need to for clarity in terminology surrounding pesticides, and in particular with regards the distinction between 'plant protection chemicals' (both herbicides and insecticides used directly on plants whether on streets/pavements or in private/public green spaces) and pesticides used in outdoor and indoor estates and facilities contexts? All of the references to pesticides in current council documents refer solely to the former, with no consideration of non –plant-directed pesticides that also have a significant impact on both biodiversity and health. There is significant porosity between plant/non-plant, and outdoor/indoor boundaries, but moreover, these substances, and especially insecticide powders commonly applied around the outer peripheries of buildings to treat ants, carry far beyond their point of application, both inside and outside, through drift and footfall.

References:

1. https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/documents/s55962/Appendix%20A%20_%20Draft%20Biodiversity%20Strategy.pdf

2. https://www.change.org/p/cambridge-city-council-make-cambridge-pesticide-free

3. Morris, G. & Saunders, P. 2017. The Environment in Health and Well-being. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science; Rayner, G. & Lang, T. 2012. Ecological Public Health: Reshaping the Conditions for Good Health. Oxford: Routledge.



17 June 2021

The Cambridge West Central Area Committee (WCAC) met today and the agenda included discussion of our previous question about herbicide use in the city that we put to the last meeting on 11 March 2021. We were hoping to get some clarity as to why, contrary to what was decided in March, spraying all over the city has continued unabated throughout the Spring and early summer.


From the minuted questions and councillors' responses copied for the 11 March entry below, we note in particular, Cllr Harrison's comment that the "City Council was not contracted, authorised or permitted to put weedkiller onto the County Councils highway, and that the County Council’s policy was to move away from the use of pesticides except in the case of certain invasive species", and her "frustration that the City Council was continuing to put pesticides down on land it did not own, against the intentions of the County Council, and asked that the City Council provide clear instructions to their officers to stop".



A fellow campaigner asked the following question at the meeting:

At the meeting of West Central Area committee on 21st March there was agreement from councillors that pesticides should no longer be used on City Council land, and the minutes state that: 'Councillor Harrison had obtained clarification from a senior environmental officer from the County Council that the City Council was not contracted, authorised or permitted to put weedkiller onto the County Councils highway, and that the County Council’s policy was to move away from the use of pesticides except in the case of certain invasive species’. It is very disappointing therefore that spraying on footpaths has continued, and operatives in Newnham who were questioned about this said it was a County Council requirement to spray weeds as they are an obstruction and a danger to pedestrians. This is clearly nonsense. Residents are aware of the environmental harm caused by pesticides, and do not support their use, both the City and County Councils pay lip service to biodiversity - so why are they still spraying poison in our streets and how long will it take them to ‘move away’ from this ecocide?

Joel Carre, Head of Environmental Services at Cambridge City Council, reportedly replied that he had looked into it, and the information relayed by County Council to Cllr Harrison wasn't accurate - the County Council does not require spraying on verges any more, but still on highways and footpaths. He said the city was meeting with the County officers to work on phasing it out, and the cllrs were all supportive of that - Lucy Nethsingha, County Councillor for Newnham and Head of the County Council, said the officers should consider the alternatives that were available, including those that Pesticide-Free Cambridge suggested at the last meeting, and look into what other councils were doing about this. This is all great news but what we will continue to push for a firm commitment that there really will be no more spraying on verges having been told for over a year that spraying is 'about to be stopped', and to obtain a a firm date for when herbicide-free alternatives on pavements, channels and 'carriageways' will be implemented.


Agenda for meeting (17 June): https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=117&MId=4081&Ver=4


Minutes etc of previous (11 March) meeting: https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=117&MId=3885&Ver=4




27 May 2021

We submitted the following Public Question to Cambridge City Council Full Meeting.


Further to the Cambridge Labour Party manifesto commitment to 'champion the elimination of herbicides on public land, including grass verges, and work towards being a herbicide-free city' (1), The Making Cambridge a Pesticide Free City motion in July 2019 (2) and the City Council Biodiversity Emergency Declaration in 2019 can the City Council give us your assurance that this spring will be the last time herbicides are applied to road verges, footways and street infrastructure on both City Council land and that managed by the City on behalf of the County Council? The 2019 motion (2) gives a date of 'end of 2022' to phase out pesticide use but, two years on, the Biodiversity Emergency worsens, and alternatives have been in use for some years now (3). Can we not end city council herbicide use now, as have many other towns (4)?
References:
(1) p. 11 of https://www.cambridgelabour.org.uk/wpcontent/uploads/sites/117/2021/04/Manifesto-2021-web-site-1.pdf (2) https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=3600&Ver=4 (3) https://www.pan-uk.org/information-for-local-authorities/ (4) https://www.pan-uk.org/make-my-town-pesticide-free/

We subsequently learnt that the original reference to 2022 in the 2019 motion had been removed in an amendment before the motion was put forward. So the commitment to phase out herbicides effectively proceeded with no clear timeframe given, and indeed we continue to push for clarity on when this is going to happen.


Specifically, the motion to the city council to ban pesticides in Cambridge (https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=3600&Ver=4), proposed by Cllr Martinelli in July 2019, had been amended by Cllr Thornburrow. If the original motion had been passed then the city council would have resolved to:

1) Commit to stopping all use of pesticides on Cambridge City Council's open spaces within the next year

2) Bring a report to the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee defining a strategy for the complete phase out of pesticide use by the end of 2022

3) Establish a stakeholder forum including Cambridgeshire County Council, members of the public and local landowners to assist in implementing the strategy.’

The amended motion REMOVED certain clauses, amongst them being:


‘-Exposure to pesticides is associated with human disease, harm to wildlife and contamination of our natural resources.

- Safe and effective alternatives to the use of chemical pesticides exist and are in use by other local authorities who have committed to becoming pesticide-free.

- Trials this year of stopping herbicide use in a number of parks in Cambridge have been successful without significant negative impact on either the quality of the area or the Council's resources.’

In the form in which the motion passed it leaves the commitment to making Cambridge pesticide-free completely open-ended. Really, all the council committed to do was to discuss and consult further.



We were pleased to learn in Councillor Alex Collis’ reply that the council have achieved a 24.5% reduction in the volume of herbicide used in the city since 2018/19, and about a Parks Biodiversity Toolkit that is about to be published which will also help promote biodiversity both in parks and beyond and this all sounds great. She also said they're looking at designing out infrastructure that requires weeding and implementing an integrated weed control management plan, and that it was committed to following the Plantlife Verge Management Guidelines (more details on our main website here). She also mentioned that a digital mapping system, to be introduced later this year, will enable the designation of different zones.


However, we are seeking clarity on whether this means that some areas will be labelled as ‘don’t spray’, and we continue to press for a firm position on precisely when the non-chemical alternatives that she mentioned are being looked into for non-park areas such as council housing and county verges will be introduced. We remain frustrated by lack of clarity on precisely when spraying on county verges is going to stop. We have been told over the last year that spraying on verges is about to stop but still have no precise timeline. We were told by the County Council in February this year that County did not approve of verges that they owned being sprayed by the City Council. We are still seeking clarity on what the situation is for verges owned by other stakeholders, such as in privately owned housing estates, but if County do not want their streets being sprayed then this clearly contradicts what we were told by City Council in November last year that they were constrained by county wishes in this regard.


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Full text of Cll Collis’ response from printed minutes

“The Executive Councillor responded that the council remained fully committed to a herbicide free city. Since 2018/19 there had been a 24.5% reduction in the volume of herbicide used in the city but was aware there was still much more to do.
The Council recognised that the city’s parks, open spaces and road verges provide significant opportunities for habitat enhancement to help buffer and connect the existing network of natural green spaces, already designated and managed for their biodiversity value.
Herbicides were no longer used in maintenance regimes on the Council’s parks and open spaces as part of the biodiversity emergency motion.
Recent investment in new IT and software afforded us the opportunity, for the first time, to be able to produce digital plans and maps of our parks and open space sites and their associated physical infrastructure (eg. paths, benches, bins) and natural assets. Using these asset plans, we can define designated zones/ areas for different types of management treatment, including long grass, close mown amenity grass and wildflower meadow. This functionality is currently being developed for operational adoption from late 2021.
A Parks Biodiversity Toolkit had been produced to support residents and community groups to enhance the biodiversity in their gardens and neighbourhoods.
Other parts of the city were more of a challenge. This included council properties and County Council highway assets untreated ‘weeds’ in hard surfaces (including roads, pavements and cycle paths) presented a health and safety risk (including slips, trips and falls). Would continue to work hard to explore effective alternatives to chemical herbicides in those areas. The council was undertaking a review of street furniture and public realm to design out areas that require herbicide treatment.
Committed that any new environmental improvement schemes and adopted open spaces would not need herbicide maintenance and to adopt the Plantlife guidance on changes to verge maintenance. Reduce the need for the use of herbicides by adopting other viable alternatives and integrated weed control management system. Develop best practice and offer advice and maintenance services to others”

  • Complete meeting documentation here.

  • Minutes accessible here.

  • Link to Meeting Agenda (our question is listed as no. 8) can be accessed here.

  • Link to video of meeting (the answer to our question, no. 8, starts at 1:25:26) accessible here.

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