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  • Pesticide-Free Cambridge

PFC meetings with partner groups, charities, networks & associations

17th January 2023. PFC attended the Ascham Road, Atherton Close & Gurney Way Happy Bee Streets meeting with Cambridge City Council

Present: PFC (BG)

Happy Bee Street residents

Cambridge City Council Biodiversity Officer and Community Engagement Ranger

PFC joined Cambridge City Council Biodiversity Officer and Community Engagement Ranger who met the Happy Bee Streets group for a discussion and a short tour of Ascham Road, Atherton Close & Gurney Way so as to agree on how the council can best organise Happy Bee Street scheme to maximise positive impacts on biodiversity . It was agreed that the council would not mow around all of the trees given that they had all been planted with bulbs and that some stretches of verge could be taken out of the normal mowing rota (as per residents' wishes for long grass).

Precise dates for mowing were to be finalised later but probably one early (February), one midsummer (June) and one late (October). Many of the verges on Ascham Road are damaged by pedestrian and cycle traffic to and from Milton Road Primary School. One solution to this problem would be a raised bed which could be planted and tended by the Happy Bee Street group, perhaps in conjunction with Milton Road pupils. It was agreed that council would fund such a bed as a trial solution. As the verges on Ascham Road are relatively wide it was also suggested by the group that they be planted up with a 'wild' flower seed mix. Counci reps agreed that long stretch of verge outside the new Register Office (30m long by 2m wide) could be lain with wildflower turf taken from the new South Cambridge station works in Hobson’s Park this spring. Likewise the larger area of amenity grass within the Register Office (25m x 8m) could also be lain with the same wildflower turf. The Happy Bee Streets group were pleased to learn that council had been monitoring their streets for the last 6 months since their Happy Bee Streets application to assess sight-lines, access issues and so on.

8th January 2023: PFC attended the Ascham Road, Atherton Close & Gurney Way Happy Bee Streets meeting

Present: PFC (BG)

Happy Bee Street residents

The residents of these three streets in West Chesterton planted 600 bulbs around the 45 trees in their three streets in November 2022, as reported on in the Cambridge Independent (November 23-29th issue, page 35). The article also mentioned the Happy Bee Streets scheme and the Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP) which are collaborations between Cambridge City Council and Pesticide-Free Cambridge. The City Council had provided A4 and A3 Happy Bee Street signage which had been put up at the entrance to Gurney Way and Atherton Close. The group agreed A3 worked best. In addition the group has written to Milton Road Primary School and will write to Chesterton Community College with the view to engaging them in a herbicide-free management approach, given their proximity to a herbicide-free zone. An on-site meeting with the Cambridge City Council Biodiversity Officer, has been scheduled for 17th January.

3 Nov 2022: PFC meeting with Cambridge Nature Network (CNN)


  • PFC (JS and BG)

  • CNN representative


Pesticide-Free Cambridge and Cambridge Nature Network (CNN) are already formally collaborating as partners with Cambridge City Council on the Happy Bee Streets scheme, a part of the Herbicide Reduction Plan. CNN’s remit is to enhance and enlarge areas managed for nature along the lines of the Lawton principle ‘bigger, better and better connected’. CNN does not manage any land directly but is a channel for funding (although CNN is itself also dependent upon funding) from the Green Recovery Fund (via the National Lottery and DEFRA). CNN liaises with stakeholders such as Cambridge Past Present and Future, and Wildlife Trusts’ Land Advisor, to encourage nature-friendly farming.

Discussion points:

  • Measures for increasing pesticide-free agricultural buffer zones around nature reserves.

  • Need to better promote pesticide-free measures on CNN website, without antagonising agricultural stakeholders.

  • CNN’s work with farmers to encourage nature-friendly practices, via network of ‘farming clusters’.

  • Possible ways of PFC and CNN working together, e.g., through our pesticide-free schools campaign, especially as the area represented by Cambridgeshire schools, which PFC is campaigning to make pesticide-free, is a landscape-scale project that would hugely benefit both biodiversity and public health.

Action points:

  • CNN to send PFC funding proposal document.

  • PFC to send paragraph on pesticide-free schools (and possibly our longer documents going to County Council) for possible approval and formal endorsement.

  • PFC to submit a joint funding proposal with OTVC, for a project at a Cambridge school with the view that any wildlife planting project needs to be tied in with pesticide-free policy and any infrastructural and building-design changes (and expenses) that that may require.

  • CNN agreed for PFC to apply for a stall at future CNN events; to possibly add details about Happy Bee Streets and Herbicide-Reduction Plan to CNN website; and to facilitate PFC talks at events.

  • PFC to make contact with Land Advisor at Wildlife Trust to discuss possibilities for increasing pesticide-free buffer zones around nature reserves, and actions being taken to encourage nature-friendly farming.

13 July 2022

PFC (JS & BG) meeting with Chair of Newnham Croft Residents Association to discuss residents’ feedback on herbicide-free trial in Newnham.

Discussion points:

  • Black tarmac-based surfacing that has been applied right up to all the walls and fences throughout Newnham meaning that there is now nowhere for plants to grow , apart from the gutters. Is this intentional? This together with the fact that most streets in Newnham Croft were indeed sprayed this Spring by County Council for resurfacing (see here for details), means that it is very difficult to assess the impact of the City Council's Herbicide Free trial in this ward.

  • · Fen causeway verge management

  • · Queen college development in garden.

New tarmacing in Eltisley Avenue: no plants on pavement + yet gutter is full of them!

19 May 2022: PFC/OTVC visit to unadopted lane in Abbey Ward

PFC/OTVC visit to unadopted lane in Abbey ward that is not currently treated by the city council and therefore patches of the verges are left to grow wild. Discussed collaborative project (with signage) to document and celebrate plant species in an untreated lane as a baseline against which to measure biodiversity in herbicide-treated verges, and those where herbicide-free weed control measures have recently been implemented. Wildflower seeds were sown in some bare soil areas that had been damaged by heavy vehicles turning, and some trailing plants trained across a wall to encourage them to spread, and so as to support the view of managed wildness rather than neglect that may lead to complaints.

20 Dec 2021

PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide-Free Towns campaign to discuss our recent FB post (2 Dec 2021) on PAN-UK's pesticide-free supermarkets campaign. We have now updated our post (see here) to clarify what we learnt from this very helpful meeting in terms of why only gardening chemicals were included in the supermarkets surveys. This is related to different labelling laws in the UK for 'plant protection chemicals' (ie those pesticides applied directly to plants, and generally sold in the gardening section of supermarkets), and all other household pesticides including insecticides such as ant powder and fly/wasp sprays which are listed under separate Biocides labelling legislation, and thus need to be tackled through a separate PAN-UK campaign/survey.

13 October 2021

PFC meeting with Healthy Planet Cambridge representative to discuss ways of working together.

7 October 2021

PFC attended Cambridge COP26 Coalition meeting

7 October 2021

PFC (attended Peterborough and Cambridge Climate Action Coalition of which PFC is now a member group.

14 Sept 2021

PFC attended Pesticide-Free Towns Campaigner Catch-up: Protecting our Pollinators, with talks by Professor Dave Goulson, and campaigners from Pesticide-Free Birmingham

22 June 2021

PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide-Free towns. We provided an update on our campaign, covering the following issues.

  • Discussed various case-studies in Europe and UK where herbicide-free alternatives have been successfully implemented and adapted to fit with local conditions and needs. This included places such as Allerod, Zealand, in Denmark where economic constraints led to a council education campaign that promoted public tolerance of certain level of ‘weediness’. More details on this and other European case-studies here.

  • UK case-studies discussed: Lambeth; Hammersmith and Fulham; Hackney, Bristol (unsuccessful herbicide-free trial, now reverted to herbicide use); Hove and Brighton; Scottish borders, Highland and Islands (Inverness); Stirling (Pesticide-Free Scotland).

  • PF-T to share contact details with us shortly so that we can discuss approaches directly with respective campaigners.

  • Discussed various herbicide alternatives from Hot Foam, to mechanical brushes, manual weeding, public awareness campaigns for greater tolerance of ‘weediness’, local street adoption (as successfully implemented in Lambeth). PAN-UK to share contact details with us shortly.

  • Discussed financial implications of each of the alternative methods in comparison with herbicides, more details on PAN-UK's Guide for Local Authorities.

  • Discussed the correlations between herbicide use and socio-economic inequality. For Cambridge, it may be necessary for different approaches to be implemented in different areas of the city, to fit with varying demographics and social needs.

  • There are different challenges presented by different urban zones, with cemeteries being a key example here, an excellent guide for which is provided in Pesticide Free Towns Europe Alternative Methods and Techniques Guide (PART III).

14 June 2021

PFC are confirmed as one of several Supporters of Friends of the Cam -

Friends of the Cam are a Cambridge based campaigning group committed to restoring the health of the river Cam and its tributaries for the benefit of nature. They are pledged to ending pollution of the river and over-abstraction linked to unsustainable growth in the area. They have developed a charter to express these commitments which they invite others to sign.

We are proud to join several other supporting groups including founding group, Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF), of which PFC are also members, Cambridge Friends of the Earth, Cambridge Schools Eco Council, and Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

11 June 2021

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) and updated the group on our activities since the last meeting in February 2021.

18 May 2021

PFC attended PAN-UK Pesticide-Free Towns Campaigners’ meeting to discuss Pesticide-Free Towns campaigns. Updates provide by Pesticide-Free Wombourne who are doing some fantastic work, and a great talk by the Rebel Botanists group.

18 May 2021

PFC attended Barrister and activist Paul Powlesland's talk on Nature Rights, organised by Friends of the Cam, during which he presented the argument for legal recognition of the rights of nature, and the rights of rivers.

Link to recording here:

PFC contributed to the discussion after the talk. Link to chat text here:

29 April 2021

PFC attended CambsCOP26 meeting and introduced aims of PFC and how they could fit with the broader CambsCOP26 agenda.

6 April 2021

PFC (with On the Verge Cambridge) talk to Hinton Avenue, Queen Edith's Residents group, concerning wildlife-friendly gardening and going pesticide-free.

18 Feb 2021

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting with Cllr Katie Thornborrow, and Cllr Mike Davey to whom we outlined our plans. Both confirmed their support.

9 Feb 2021

PFC participated in Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) and Friends of Cam ( meeting.

29 January 2021

PFC meeting with Cambridge Friends of the Earth to discuss the alleged contamination of the Cam through runoff via the Riddy stream during and following the earlier repurposing of the former Bayer pesticides factory site in Hauxton.

Legacy residents’ campaigning site:

Three videos of talk by Dr Damien Downing, President of the British Society of Ecological Medicine, to Hauxton and surrounding villagers about the health impact of chemical pollution in relation to the remediation of the Old Bayer CropScience site:

Old media reports:

Links to South Cambs Bayer environmental monitoring data from the ‘decontamination’ phase.

27 January 2021

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting. PFC announced our recently launched petition and campaign.

20 January 2021

PFC attended PAN-UK Pesticide-Free Towns campaigning meeting, mainly about herbicides rather than pesticides more generally. We received very useful updates from Pesticide-Free Newcastle who referred to success stories in Lewes, Hammersmith and apparently 30 other councils that have adopted herbicide-free weed control methods. Discussion of Foamstream and sit-on brush machines as alternative weed control methods.

PAN-UK also shared the following useful resources:

Success stories - scroll down for numbers:

A link for local authorities including some interesting videos about herbicide- alternatives

20 January 2021

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting with Councillors Lewis Herbert and Katie Thornburrow. PFC outlined the aims and rationale for our campaign. Cllrs Thornborrow and Herbert made verbal commitment to work together with county and South Cambridgeshire with regards herbicides on verges.

6 Jan 2021

Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting with Cambridgeshire Mayor candidate Dr Nik Johnson. Discussion points included how linking of public health and wellbeing with a sustainable environment is important for the whole region. Unfortunately no-one from PFC was able to attend the meeting but we followed up on 7 Jan by email to the explain aims and objectives of our campaign. In reply, Dr Johnson extended his support for our campaign and expressed the wish for our aims to be replicated across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

12 December 2020

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting.

8 December 2020

PFC attended online Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum / FECRA event with lecture by Feargal Sharkey on chalk streams and river pollution. PFC participated in the ensuing discussion and we raised the issue of the impact of agricultural, domestic and local authority pesticide use on river water quality, and also asked whether there were any updates on the effects of pesticide factory housing project in Hauxton. Recording:

2 December 2020

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting to discuss Save the Cam strategy.

25 November 2020

PFC attended PAN-UK Pesticide-Free Towns Campaigners’ event to discuss used of social media for Pesticide-Free Towns campaigns. Very productive and useful meeting during which we learnt a lot about how to maximise the efficacy of our social media channels. Main message: keep it focused on pesticide-free towns! PFC also summarised the aims and objectives of our campaign.

18 November 2020

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting, attended also by Cllr Katie Thornburrow to whom PFC outlined some of the problems with pesticides in Cambridge.

26 October 2020

PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide Free Towns to discuss approaches to our campaign.

20 October 2020

PFC attended Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) meeting where it was agreed that CLEF would becoming one of our Supporting Groups. Fantastic news and wonderful to have the backing of all the amazing environmentally minded people in this group.

We introduced a motion for a comprehensive ban of pesticides and it was agreed that this would be taken to various branches, for discussion and support for eliminating remaining council use of herbicides in the city’s pavements and streets, and for raising awareness about the use of both insecticides and herbicides in businesses, schools and private homes.

We expanded on the supporting literature to stress the human health as well as wildlife damage created by widespread use of pesticides, highlighting also the higher levels of toxicity and environmental persistence represented by insecticides in comparison to glyphosate that the council has now banned from parks and children’s playgrounds. We also mentioned council plans reported to us by Cllr Thornburrow to phase out the use of herbicides on verges and that we are in ongoing discussion with her to try to get some clarity as to precisely when this will happen. It was noted that verges in Newnham were still being sprayed in the summer of 2020.

We pointed out that once the herbicides cease to be used on verges and in parks/playgrounds, there is still the ongoing problem of herbicide-based weed control on pavements and roads which occurs at least twice a year.

Full text of MOTION:

That Cambridge City Council urgently extends its recent cessation of glyphosate-based herbicide use in parks, open spaces and children’s playgrounds to its roads, verges, and pavements that it manages on behalf of the County Council so that it ends the use of all synthetic, non-agricultural pesticides (including herbicides and insecticides), and establishes a communications campaign which strongly encourages residents, businesses, universities, schools and other stakeholders within the City to do likewise.


There is widespread recognition of the negative health impact of both agricultural and non-agricultural pesticides use and their link with a wide range of human illnesses, including cancers, neurogenerative diseases, endocrine disruption and DNA alteration, as well as autism and learning difficulties in children.(1) In addition, there is growing concern about the negative impact of both agricultural and non-agricultural pesticide use on declining insect populations and the consequent loss of biodiversity.(2) Unsustainable chemical use and waste has been singled out as a key obstacle to achieving the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and as a major contribution to air pollution far over and beyond that related to fumes from vehicles.(3)

There is growing awareness of the important contribution of wild grasses and flowers in roadside verges to biodiversity, human health and wellbeing, and the positive example set by cities such as Zurich that have embraced the visual and biodiverse beauty of their wild verges that have also been used after the autumn cut, as nutrient-rich feed for cattle. In the UK, Rotherham Council’s 8-mile ring road wildflower meadow saved up to £25,000 in mowing costs and improved biodiversity, while also being popular with residents.(4) Sheffield’s Living Highways Project shows how councils can work together with contractors to deliver a verge management plan that boosts wildlife. Closer to home, Saffron Walden is working with the Pesticides Action Network to become a pesticides free city.(5) The City would be able to call on the PAN UK’s Pesticide-Free Towns Campaign and its local representatives, Pesticide-Free Cambridge for guidance.(6)

Cambridge City Council recognised the Biodiversity Emergency on 22 May 2019 and pledged to ‘make the Council estate more hospitable to a wide range of plants and animals’ and to ‘work in partnership with institutions, schools, businesses and community groups to raise awareness and encourage wider biodiversity action across the City’. The City Council’s 2019 decision to stop applying glyphosate-based herbicides in the city’s parks, open spaces and children’s playgrounds has had a positive impact on biodiversity in the City. This is a good start on which to build, particularly given the recent Amendment 78 to the UK Agriculture Bill which extends current agricultural spraying regulations that hitherto afforded protection to wildlife but not to human health, to the limitation of crop spraying in close proximity to private and public buildings, including schools.(7) The continued use of the very same pesticides within the grounds and buildings that such an Amendment seeks to protect, is therefore increasingly illogical.

The use of glyphosate-based herbicides by private individuals is also a problem across the city, especially when applied on council-owned streets and pavements or without regard to the potential for pesticide drift.Further, glyphosate-based herbicides comprise only one type of non-agricultural pesticides, which include also synthetic insecticides. The use of insecticides within private homes, gardens, estates and facilities contexts such as schools and businesses, is generally overlooked. These products are considerably more persistent in the environment, toxic and injurious to human health than the glyphosate-based herbicides that have received so much media attention. Many insecticides, and indeed herbicides, are applied to the external peripheries of buildings that abut municipal land, meaning that members of the public are afforded no protection against exposure to hazardous chemicals when walking on a public pavement or street.

Many insecticide products, aimed at the control of ants, wasps, flies or beetles, are normalised by being sold on the cleaning products shelves of supermarkets and DIY stores, and yet are implicated in a wide range of long-term neuro-degenerative illnesses, with the ability to metabolise active ingredients varying significantly across the human population according to individual genetics.(8) For example, many such insecticides contain carbamates, which are powerful nerve agents used in chemical warfare, which like the notorious organophosphate group, carry warnings regarding their acetylcholinesterase-inhibiting properties. Whilst these chemicals have negative health impacts on the human population at large, for individuals with cholinesterase enzyme deficiencies, they can be extremely hazardous, with debilitating and long-lasting impacts on exposure, even in trace form. Powder-based insecticides are particularly hazardous in this regard due to their high volatility and susceptibility to ‘drift’ and cross-contamination from their original place of application.

It is for all these reasons that we call on the City Council to enact a wider ban on all synthetic, non-agricultural pesticides (including both herbicides and insecticides) in all areas they are responsible for managing, and to work with partners across the city to encourage them to do likewise.

1 October 2020

PFC meeting with On the Verge Stirling, Pesticide-Free Scotland and Worcester Environmental Group (WEG). Pesticide-Free Scotland kindly shared their document aimed at Local Authorities with examples of non-chemical ways to tackle ‘weeds’.

25 September 2020

PFC attendance at Cambridge Eco Schools council meeting, brief outline of the schools element of our pesticide-free campaign.

26 May 2020

PFC meeting with Cambridge Labour Party Environment Forum (CLEF) to discuss ways of working together.

12 May 2020

Members of PFC joined forces with members of On the Verge Cambridge! The start of a fantastic collaboration!

25 April 2019

PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide-Free Towns to discuss our campaign.

16 February 2019

PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide-Free Towns to discuss our campaign.

July 2018

PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide Free Towns to discuss campaign.

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