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  • Pesticide-Free Cambridge

PFC Press Release on Cambridge City Council ECSM 27.01.22 & Herbicide Reduction Plan

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

31 January 2022.

Response by Pesticide-Free Cambridge (PFC), Cllr Katie Porrer (Liberal Democrat, Market Ward), Cllr Cheney Payne (Liberal Democrat, Castle Ward) and Cllr Hannah Copley (Green, Abbey Ward) to outcome of Cambridge City Council Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday 27 Jan 2022.


Cambridge City Council’s Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP) was discussed at the Environment

and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting (ECSC) on Thursday 27 January 2022. The HPR

emerged from the Lib Dem/PFC motion in July 2021 that led to the council committing to

starting a two-ward herbicide-free trial in Autumn 2021 (but which was later moved back to

Spring 2022), and to going completely herbicide-free by the end of 2022. The council's

Biodiversity Team ran a mini trial in Autumn 2021, and the HPR incorporates key findings of

this trial, including earlier recommendations of PFC. The two wards that have been chosen

for these trials are Newnham and Arbury, both of which represent quite distinct

environmental and social contexts. There are also plans for a street-adoption scheme

whereby residents can elect to manage their own streets in a herbicide-free manner.

The outcomes of the discussion included the unanimous approval of HRP in its

current format, the decision to go ahead with the two-ward herbicide-free trial in Arbury

and Newnham followed by a planned city-wide rollout following the successful completion

of the trials, although when questioned on the timing of the latter, Labour councillors fell

short of providing a firm commitment that this would definitely happen by the end of 2022

as per the July motion. Disappointingly, Cllrs Porrer (Lib Dem) and Copley’s (Green)

proposed amendments to include a firm commitment to this effect in the HPR, ie to ending

herbicide treatments in 2022 subject to a successful trial, and to include explicit reference

to signage and online notifications regarding herbicide spraying schedules, were rejected by

the ruling Labour group.

PFC and a fellow campaigner asked several Public Questions during the meeting, and

additional questions posed by Cllrs Porrer and Payne (Lib Dem) and Cllr Copley (Green) also

incorporated concerns that we’d raised with them before the meeting. In light of this

collaborative background, our Press release below therefore also includes reactions from

Cllrs Porrer, Payne and Copley on the outcomes of the meeting.

Response by Pesticide-Free Cambridge

Julia Shaw and Ben Greig of Pesticide-Free Cambridge gave the following statement: “We

are very grateful to the many Cambridge City Councillors, officers, and members of the

council’s Biodiversity team, Residents associations, and partner groups that have supported

our campaign to make Cambridge pesticide-free and worked with us to get to this stage.

We’re very happy that the two-ward trial in Arbury and Newnham will finally be going

ahead in the Spring, especially as this was originally scheduled to take place in Autumn

2021, and we're hopeful that this will set us on the path to a city-wide end of council

herbicide spraying on the land it owns or manages by the end of the year. Against the

background of the intertwined climate and biodiversity emergencies, such action can’t come

soon enough given the growing evidence regarding the harmful impacts of herbicides on

human health and the environment. We reiterate our commitment to working with the City

Council to make this happen as quickly and effectively as possible and to ensure that the

intention given in the July motion to a city-wide herbicide-free rollout by the end of this

year is honoured, especially given the reticence over providing a guarantee on this point

during the meeting. We look forward to being part of a working group that was mentioned

in Thursday’s meeting, to monitor the progress of the ward trials and herbicide-free streets,

and to have input into related information campaigns and websites”.

Ben commented, “Naturally we welcome the council’s Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP)

discussed during the meeting, and the plans for a street-adoption scheme whereby

residents can elect to manage their own streets in a herbicide-free manner, a model that

has been successfully implemented in other areas such as Lambeth in London. However, we

do have concerns about the HRP in its current format. In particular, we are concerned that

the only references to public health are framed in relation to potential trip hazards posed by

urban plants, with zero reference to the well-documented human health impacts of

pesticide exposure itself, especially for children and vulnerable groups such as the already

chronically ill and those with allergies”.

Julia said, “We were also disappointed that the commitment given in the July herbicide free motion to notify residents of when spraying will take place in those areas that aren’t

part of the herbicide-free trials, and to erect signage to indicate where spraying has

occurred has not been written into the HRP. Another Public Speaker also made an excellent

suggestion for a website that would allow residents to check on such details via ward and

street, and Cllrs Porrer and Copley called for an amendment to this effect but unfortunately

this was rejected. Members of Pesticide-Free Cambridge have been pushing the council on

this point for many years, as residents deserve to know when and where poisons are being

sprayed so that they can take necessary action to protect their health during the time taken

for plants to show visible signs of die-off. We have also asked several times about why the

council does not insist that its city council operatives wear full PPE when spraying

herbicides, as is legally required, and whilst there is no mention of this in the HRP, we were

reassured by Cllr Collis’s response to our Public Question, that corrective measures to this

effect will now be implemented”. ˇ

Ben added, “We were also concerned by statements made during the meeting about

spraying/strimming around trees to the effect that the operations team would only commit

to not spraying or strimming around new trees as they are especially vulnerable. However,

trees of any age are damaged by both practices and moreover, both are completely

unnecessary. Grass can be left to grow around trees, yet still mown nearby. We hope that

we won’t have another year of witnessing the kinds of damage to tree roots that we saw as

a result of such practices last year”.

Julia commented, “We will also continue working with communities, groups and

residents to ensure that the Council’s intention to roll out herbicide-free forms of weed

control across the whole city following the successful completion of the two-ward trial,

happens as effectively as possible, especially since, disappointingly, Cllrs Porrer and Copley’s

call for the HRP to be amended to include a firm commitment to this happening in 2022 was

rejected. But we are also focusing on the even bigger problem of pesticide-use by residents,

businesses, schools, the universities, and other stakeholders, both on privately owned land

as well as on public streets and pavements, as frequently occurs on areas abutted by

privately-owned structures. We continue through our campaign and petition to put

pressure on the council to engage in effective awareness-building campaigns about

domestic and business use of pesticides in both private and public contexts, and also to take

necessary steps to ensure that the pesticide-free status of council-owned land is not

compromised by such activities”.

Ben said, “It was stated in the ECSC meeting that Cambridgeshire County Council have

given their blessing to the Herbicide Reduction Plan and the herbicide-free streets scheme.

This is important as the roads and verges are managed by the city but only on behalf of the

county, to whom they actually belong. The county council also has responsibility for its

schools, where the very same glyphosate-based herbicides that the county council

agrees should cease to be used on streets and verges, as well as even more problematic

groups of pesticides, are often used.”

Julia added, “We have amassed evidence over a number of years of routine and

extensive glyphosate-based herbicide application in school grounds, as well as carbamate

and pyrethroid-based insecticides such as ant powder and wasp poison in and around

school buildings. We are continuing to put pressure on the Cambridgeshire County Council

to take necessary action to ensure its schools are also pesticide-free so as to compliment the

actions recently agreed by the City Council and moreover to ensure that schools are healthy

and biodiverse learning environments”.

Responses by Cllrs Porrer, Payne and Copley

Cllr Katie Porrer (Liberal Democrat, Market Ward), and Cllr Cheney Payne (Liberal Democrat,

Castle Ward) who proposed and seconded the original motion last year, welcomed the

progress so far and the plans to move to a trial in two city wards. Cllr Porrer said "herbicide

reduction is something that Cambridge should be leading on having declared a biodiversity

emergency more than two years ago now. I am therefore grateful to officers for their hard

work in getting this trial in place before treatments start in 2022".

She added, "however, we were disappointed that our proposal for clear on-site signage in

the wards still using herbicides, an online map allowing residents to search for this by ward

and road, and a firm commitment to end herbicide use after 2022 subject to a successful

trial were rejected by the ruling Labour group".

Cllr Payne commented that "residents have a right to know when these chemicals are being

sprayed in their area, particularly as it's not visible for several days after the treatment is

applied. Children and pets will be using these streets unaware of their use unless

something changes." "However, we are fully supportive of the trials across the city and will

be working closely with Pesticide Free Cambridge to ensure that results are reported back

as soon as possible after the end of the trial. We will also continue to push for an end to

herbicide use on council land and our streets and paths across the city in 2022."

Cllr Hannah Copley (Green, Abbey Ward) said, “I’m really pleased to see a herbicide free

trial of two whole wards going ahead, and look forward to working on this and seeing the

results. I asked the council for a firm commitment for signage on streets that have been

treated with herbicides, such as simple stickers on lamp posts, so we can know whether

there is a risk of being exposed to herbicides (as it takes days for the effects of herbicides to

be apparent). The council would not commit to this, but I will continue to campaign for this

and try to get this to happen this year because I know this is really important to a lot of

people. I also want us to look more broadly at other kinds of pesticides such as insecticides,

fungicides and rodenticides that are used in the city and how we can reduce or eliminate

them, in the context of the biodiversity emergency.”

Links and supporting documentation

• Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting (27 Jan 22) documents:

• Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting (27 Jan 22) recording of meeting (Herbicide Reduction Plan is discussed between 1.03 – 2.13):

• Herbicide Reduction Plan:

• Lib Dem/PFC pesticide-free motion in July 2021 -

• Pesticide-Free Cambridge’s Public questions to ECSC meeting:

For media enquiries on any of the points made by members of PFC or the Councillors quoted above, in the first instance, please contact:

To download a printable version (as PDF) of this Press Release, please click below:

PFC press release for website8
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