Campaign timeline, news and record of meetings
Updated: Oct 16, 2021
On this page we will upload a rolling list (starting with most recent) of our meetings and conversations with councillors, partner groups and organisations so you can see how our campaign has evolved over the last few years. We also provide an accompanying timeline of relevant developments with respect the Council's changing stance on biodiversity, climate-change and pesticide use. Please get in touch if you notice any errors.
(Records for the period between August and October 2021 are still being updated)
13 Oct 2021
PFC meeting with Healthy Planet Cambridge representative to discuss ways of working together.
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. We will post the responses here when we receive them.
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.
7 October 2021
PFC attended Cambridge COP26 Coalition meeting
PFC (attended Peterborough and Cambridge Climate Action Coalition of which PFC is now a member group.
5 October 2021
PFC meeting with Chair of University of Cambridge Ecological Advisory Panel which is tasked with delivering the University’s 2020 Green Challenge Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). We are keen the BAP should acknowledge urban pesticide use as an obstacle towards achieving its goals. Currently the document contains only a single reference to pesticides (1.49 page 17), and that is in relation solely to agricultural practices. We discussed ways of remedying the situation and of working constructively together which will include in the first instance an audit of UoC pesticide use, and agreeing on a list of priority chemicals that should be tackled first.
25 September 2021
Many thanks to everyone who stopped to chat with us on Parker's Piece at the Cambridge COP26 Climate Fair (12-4 pm), and who added their signatures to our petition which asks the City Council to stop using herbicides on Cambridge's streets and green spaces, as well as taking a proactive role in encouraging local stakeholders including the University, colleges, and schools, to ditch herbicides AND insecticides for the sake of biodiversity and human health.
Cambridge Independent article covering the event, including an interview with PFC.
If you haven't done so already, please do sign and share the digital version of our petition. We now have more than 600 signatures, but need more local ones in order to instigate a Full Council debate.
We'll also be at the next Cambridge COP26 Climate Fair on 23 October (details to follow), so do stop by and see us then if you can!
17 September 2021
PFC meeting with Cambridge Lawn Tennis club to discuss ways of working together to make the grounds pesticide free. We are in ongoing discussions as to best pesticide-free solutions for management of ‘weeds’ and moss on both grass and hard courts.
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
9 Sept 2021
PFC meeting with Streets and Open Spaces Biodiversity Project, Cambridge City Council. Discussed ways of working together over suitable herbicide alternatives to be trialled in two wards as agreed in the August city council motion. This will be preceded by a controlled micro trial of a variety of herbicide-free weed control methods in September which will help when it comes to rolling out the best alternatives across two wards in early 2022. We are still seeking clarity from the Council as to why the two-ward trial is not beginning until 2022 as this seems to contradict the commitment of the August motion to begin in Autumn 2021.
28 July 2021
Article in today's Cambridge Independent about Council's decision to explore ways of trialling two herbicide-free wards before the next spraying season this year, for a full roll out by the end of 2022.
Many thanks to all the Councillors who have supported our campaign and worked with us to get to this point. Pity it's not an immediate ban as recently implemented in Bath, but much better than the stalemate that we've had until now.
27 July 2021
Press release about last week's motion - "Cambridge Liberal Democrats and Pesticide-Free Cambridge welcome moves towards making City pesticide-free, despite removal of key deadlines from council motion by Labour group."
Includes PFC statement as follows:
We are delighted that the motion has been passed, although Labour’s amendments have removed much of the clarity and force of the original motion which is disappointing. For example, with regards the timeline for trialling alternatives and phasing out herbicides across the city, original references to ‘commitment’ have been replaced by more vague terms such as ‘explore’ and ‘assess’ which raises the risk of further causes of delay, something that we have been highlighting over the last 14 months as a major contradiction to the Council’s 2019 declaration of a Biodiversity Emergency. Further, in the amended motion, the original proposal 'to commit to publishing the planned dates of herbicide treatments by road/ward for the remainder of 2021 and thereafter on the council’s website', is now preceded by the following qualification, '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’.
However, even with these amendments, we are happy that in the passing of this motion we now have, 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), with the view to stopping all herbicide-use across the city by the end of 2022. This is the first time we've seen any date at all for the end of council herbicide-spraying despite numerous statements of intent over the last year, and so this in itself is a major step forward and improvement on the previous stalemate. We will continue therefore to work with all concerned to try to hold the Council to this position, and to ensure it implements its intention to prewarn residents about spraying schedules, and to put up appropriate signage. This is something we’ve been suggesting for years as 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. Further, we hope that by raising public concern amongst residents who may have been previously unaware this was even going on, such measures may also help to bring forward the end-of-2022 target for ending herbicide-use across the city.
We are hugely thankful to Councillors Katie Porrer and Cheney Payne for having worked with us to propose the motion, and we look forward to exploring herbicide-free alternatives with the Council to see what works best for the two as-yet-to-be-selected trial wards, in advance of the next spraying season in autumn of this year. As shown by case-studies from other towns that have successfully gone herbicide-free,(1) it is unlikely that a single method will fit the needs of every ward. We agree, therefore, that trialling different alternatives is a sensible approach especially as we have been unable as yet to persuade the Council to effect an immediate ban. This would have been the ideal route, as followed recently for example, by Bath Council who have switched to an immediate use of mechanical weeding until such time as alternative measures can be trialled.(2) However, we hope that two-ward trial this year will allow for a rapid rollout of the most appropriate herbicide-free approaches over the whole city as early as possible next year.
Even with its removal of crucial terms such as ‘commitment’ from the original motion, the Council’s declared intention to end its use of herbicides by the end of 2022 is a hugely important step towards achieving our end goal which is to make the city completely pesticide free, including the use of herbicides and insecticides by other stakeholders such as the universities, businesses, schools and residents. As shown by the nearly-550-signatures on our petition,(3) that also calls for the council to run public awareness building campaigns about the biodiversity and health dangers of pesticides, there is widespread support for removing these toxic substances not only from council-owned streets, pavements and open spaces, but from our homes and gardens too.
22 July 2021
We are pleased that Lib Dem Cllrs Katie Porrer and Cheney Payne's #pesticidefree motion at Thursday’s Full Council meeting was passed, albeit with amendments. We are so grateful to them and all the other City and County Councillors that we’ve been in discussion with over the last 14 months for supporting our campaign and for taking these crucial steps towards achieving our goal of a fully #pesticidefreeCambridge. We have been asking for a clear timeframe for over a year, and we do now have a declared intention, if not a firm commitment, to end all Council herbicide use by the end of 2022, which is excellent news, and which finally accords with the councils' declaration of a biodiversity emergency back in 2019.
The original motion proposed that two wards be selected as #herbicidefree trials in the next spraying season of 2021 so that appropriate alternatives could be selected, in discussion with us at Pesticide-Free Cambridge across the whole city by the end of 2022. It also proposed that herbicide spraying schedules be published in advance so that residents can take proactive precautions before interacting with these areas. It is disappointing that in Labour’s amendment, the original proposal 'to commit to publishing the planned dates of herbicide treatments by road/ward for the remainder of 2021 and thereafter on the councils' website', is now preceded by the following qualification, '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’.
However even though this and other amendments remove much of the clarity of the original motion, we are delighted that its underlying intention remains in place including to end all council herbicide use by the end of 2022. We look forward to working with the City Council to explore which herbicide-free alternatives work best for the two as-yet-to-be-selected trial wards, in advance of the next spraying season in autumn of this year.
We are grateful to Cllrs Porrer and Payne for working with us and for proposing their motion, and to Cllr Collis and many other City and County Councillors for their overwhelming support of our campaign. The council's declared intention to end all council herbicide spraying by the end of 2022 is a hugely important first step towards achieving our end goal which is to make the city completely #pesticidefree, including the use of herbicides and insecticides by other stakeholders such as the universities, businesses, schools and residents. We look forward to continued collaboration with all concerned to make this happen.
You can watch the debate at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B0gmsipC4k (starts at 2 hrs 33 with Cllr Porrer and Payne's excellent speeches, and also supportive comments of our campaign by Cllr Collis).
See entries below for wording of original motion and Labour's amendments.
22 July 2021
PFC meeting with Lib Dem Cllr Katie Porrer to discuss Labour’s amendment of Cllr Porrer and Payne’s motion to be discussed at tonight’s Council meeting.
21 July 2021
The proposed amendments to the Pesticide motion have just been published (p. 41) via https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/media/9757/information-pack-2.pdf
Amended text (with track changes) below.
21 July 2021
PFC meeting with Labour Cllr Alex Collis to discuss ways of working together on our campaign in advance of tomorrow’s Council meeting and Lib Dem’s Motion to make Cambridge pesticide-free. Other discussion points:
Our Petition which now has nearly 550 signatures.
Our planned contribution to the Biodiversity Draft Strategy Consultation (see below) on which we are listed consultees.
Relative pros and cons of hot foam v. brush machines as alternatives to herbicides. Unlikely that a one-fits-all solution will apply to the city as a whole. Different alternatices needed in different wards.
Pesticides on university-owned land.
Private use of pesticides on council-owned land.
Use of pesticides on new housing estates (Eddington, Trumpington Meadows).
19 July 2021
PFC sent out emails to all Cambridge Labour Councillors asking them to support Lib Dem Cllrs Porrer and Payne’s Motion for debate on 22 July. Received following response from Cllr Mike Davey on 22 July.
Attached is the position agreed by the Labour Group. Happy to talk through after this evenings meeting,
We welcome Cllr Porrer’s motion and are entirely supportive of the underlying principles. As you may well know, we made a commitment in our 2021 election manifesto to work towards making Cambridge a herbicide-free city. We fully recognise the part the city council has to play here and what we need to do as a council is work out what resources are needed to help this happen. It is the how rather than the what or why that any amendments we put forward will focus on.
Many of the actions put forward both by your organisation and in Cllr Porrer’s motion are in fact already underway, such as trials of alternative weed control methods, but there certainly are other areas we can look at. We particularly recognise the need that you’ve outlined for reviewing how we communicate with residents and communities on this, including an element of education as needed – and also the need for transparency, and partnering with organisations such as yours in the discussion of how we get to the goal that I think we all share
14 July 2021
Having worked with Lib Dem Cllrs Katie Porrer and Cheney Payne over the last few months, they have published a motion for discussion at next Council meeting (22 July), Item 6c. We are very happy that many of the points that we have raised with them, and at questions to council meetings have been incorporated into the Motion. https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=3963&x=1
Text as follows:
Councillor Porrer: Pesticide-free Motion
That it unanimously voted in favour of declaring a Biodiversity Emergency on 18th July 2019;
That this included reducing and removing the need to use pesticides on highway footpaths and verges, and to find viable and effective alternatives;
That the recent Biodiversity strategy focusses on open spaces but excludes roads, pavements and infrastructure which are still being treated with pesticides by council staff;
That with the changed control of the County Council, there is real opportunity to stop day to day pesticide use for weed management across our city within the next year.
To commit to making two wards completely pesticide-free from now on as a trial, and making the relevant ward residents aware of this trial;
In order to do this, to commit to purchasing or hiring brush cleaning equipment to use in the pesticide free wards (and others where possible) with active involvement of Pesticide Free Cambridge representatives and frontline council staff to select the product, prior to the next planned round of treatments in 2021;
To report back to the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on the differences between the pesticide-free wards and those wards that are not pesticide-free, and on the use of the brush equipment before the start of the 2022 cycle of treatments. This would include information about operative time and savings or costs made, feedback from residents and operatives, and the level of any complaints or compliments;
To commit to publishing the planned dates of pesticide treatments by road/ward for the remainder of 2021 and thereafter on the council’s website, allowing residents to find out when a treatment is planned. This is because it can take several days before it is clear that a pesticide treatment has been applied and residents need to be informed so that they can choose to avoid the area and to keep children and animals in particular away from the treatment sites;
To commit, in addition to the online listings, to displaying signage in situ on the relevant roads and pavements with dates of any herbicide treatments from 2022 onwards.
To commit to publishing the amount of pesticide used each month and the cost to the council;
To commit officer time to working with community groups who may wish to volunteer to clear their street spaces to avoid pesticide use;
To commit to making Cambridge City Council pesticide free by the end of 2022.
To publish a regular six monthly update to the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on any exceptional usage of pesticide (for example for Japanese Knotweed) and to establish a clear protocol for any such usage, ensuring that the least harmful options are selected, including sign off by a senior manager before any use is permitted.
To commit to sharing the data on our trials with other councils considering similar trials and allowing an exchange of information (and visits if possible) for council staff to showcase and share Cambridge City Council’s learning.
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.
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.
24 June 2021
PFC meeting with Cllr Katie Porrer, Liberal Democrat Party Councillor for Market and Cllr Cheney Payne, Liberal Democrat Party Councillor for Castle.
We discussed a variety of topics all of which require further action:
PFC providing examples of Local authorities who have successfully gone herbicide-free so Cllrs Katie and Cheney can make contact.
PFC providing costings for a range of different mechanical alternatives to glyphosate use.
Need for Council to erect signage after they have sprayed public areas with herbicides so that people are aware that spraying has taken place, and in acknowledgement of the proven risks to health that direct exposure to glyphosate present.
Discussed the issue of why council operatives spraying glyphosate are not wearing protective gear, in light of proven health risks of exposure to glyphosate.
Need for Council to erect signage on verge areas that have been left to grow, as part of a public education strategy to distinguish between perceived neglect and active measures to boost biodiversity.
What alternatives to glyphosate spraying have been trialled or explored by the Council so far?
We discussed possibility of proposing to the City Council an initial herbicide-free trial period focusing on two very different wards in terms of socio-economic demographics, for instance Newnham and either Arbury, Abbey, King’s Hedges or East Chesterton. The possibility of mobilising mutual aid groups was discussed given that they have been extremely active during the pandemic.
We also discussed the ‘locals street adoption’ model that has been applied successfully in other regions, e.g., Lambeth, as a possible model in some wards of Cambridge where there is already significant community engagement through local residents’ associations.
Discussed the Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document on verges for the Planning & Transport Scrutiny Committee meeting next week (29 June). Council now aiming for a 20% biodiversity gain and this document could be crucial, until the new Local Plan comes into effect.
PFC raised the need for a much clearer distinction between 'plant protection chemicals' (both herbicides and insecticides used directly on plants) and pesticides used in outdoor and indoor estates and facilities context. All of the references to pesticides in current council documents refer solely to the former and don't consider at all the latter which have significant impact on both biodiversity and health.
23 June 2021
PFC meeting with Cllr Hannah Charlotte Copley, Green Party Councillor for Abbey, and two other Green Party members
We discussed a variety of topics all of which require further action:
PFC will provide examples of other Local Authorities that have gone herbicide-free, especially where this has avoided switching to other costly weed-killing equipment such as foam. Lambeth and Hackney were discussed as LAs who have stopped routine herbicide spraying, switched to non-chemical weed removal and allowed residents to look after their own streets, encouraging a much greater tolerance of weeds as wildflowers overall.
HCC will share details of the Green Party’s own Integrated Weed Control programme.
PFC will submit questions about the new Biodiversity Strategy and Toolkit for the upcoming Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee meeting on 1st July. The Biodiversity strategy document will be discussed during next week’s meeting with the proposal that it goes out for an eight-week consultation (PFC is on the list of consultees) and gets approved or amended and approved in October 2021.
HCC followed up by email with links to related documentation:
Councillors in attendance
Biodiversity draft strategy
Parks biodiversity toolkit
List of consultees (including Pesticide-Free Cambridge, and our supporting group, On the Verge Cambridge) https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/documents/s55964/Appendix%20C%20-%20List%20of%20proposed%20stakeholders%20consultees.pdf
22 June 2021
PFC meeting with PAN-UK Pesticide-Free towns. Campaign update.
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).
19 June 2021
PFC meeting with Hilary Cox Condron, Labour Cambs County Councillor for Arbury, Vice-Chair of Community, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee, also community artist/Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination and Eco Capabilities.
We discussed a variety of topics all of which require further action:
PFC providing examples of Local authorities who have successfully gone herbicide-free so Hilary can make contact.
PFC providing evidence of pesticide-use (both herbicides and insecticides) in Cambridge schools and success so far.
PFC Pesticide-Free Schools campaign (see schools info page here with blog piece to follow shortly) and ways that we might work together. Hilary/PFC to ask the County Council to send a message to schools to encourage the embedding of a pesticide-free school policy county-wide.
Pesticide-Free Arbury - access to nature/clean green space is an equality issue, improves well-being, reduces crime etc… - establishing this ward as a herbicide-free zone could provide excellent model for the rest of the city.
Herbicide use on verges/paths – Hilary to support City Council in its commitment to phase this out and work with them on establishing a time-frame.
Extending campaign to end herbicide use on verges to Parish councils (and schools as above), ideally through liaison with partner environmental groups (see here for our allied groups).
Nature Heritage Month (details to follow)
Also various related projects were discussed:
More wildflower/long grass/cut and collect zone (eg Kings hedges Rd on Arbury Side, Sherbourne Rd/Close, Nuns Way Recreation ground)
Pond-dipping at allotment pond (New Chesterton Allotment Soc, Howgate Rd).
Cambridge Conservation Initiative and/or Forum.
Urban Forest, Cambridge Canopy Project.
Arbury local nature walks.
Schools Meadows projects (two so far in Arbury, hopefully as many as ten in North Cambridge and beyond by Autumn 2021).
Keep Cambridge Buzzing & North Cambridge Pollinator Corridor info – ties in with On the Verge Cambridge, Keep Britain Tidy and City Council.
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
14 June 2021
PFC are confirmed as one of several Supporters of Friends of the Cam - https://www.friendsofthecam.org/content/our-supporters
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. https://www.friendsofthecam.org/content/about
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.
9 June 2021
PFC email to Councillor Collis thanking her for her responses to our question at the full City Council meeting on 27 May (response awaited).
“Dear Councillor Collis
Naturally we welcome the 24.5% reduction in herbicide used by the City Council since 2018-2019, the cessation of herbicide spraying in parks and the commitment to exploring alternatives to chemical treatment of verges, footways and around street infrastructure such as trees and benches.
In a meeting with us last November Katie Thornburrow, your predecessor responsible for Open Spaces of course, stated that the contract with the County Council required herbicides to be used and therefore that was a stumbling block to change. We have since had clarification via County Councillor Nichola Harrisson that this is not the case. The County Council expressly do not want herbicides used on their verges or footways (the road channels are a different matter). Both Katie Thornburrow and Lewis Herbert, in a separate meeting (Cambridge Labour Environment Forum, January 2021), gave us their commitment to phasing out herbicides on these verges and working with other stakeholders to make the city pesticide-free.
Regarding the City Council actively exploring non-chemical alternatives to pesticides, can you tell us when a report on these alternatives might be presented to the City Council, presumably to the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee? Also, by extension, when can we hope to see the 'Making Cambridge a Pesticide Free City' resolution from 2019 (1) come to fruition, specifically 'to reduce and remove the need to use herbicides on highway footpaths and verges' and 'to eliminate the use of pesticides on publicly accessed land in Cambridge, the aim that Cambridge becomes pesticide-free'?
From a recent FOI request we know that the area covered by just one herbicide used in 2019-2020 by the City Council (132 x 5 litres of Hilite) is 88 hectares or 880,000 square metres(2), and that is only one of four herbicides used. It is a truly shocking figure when one thinks of the immediate effect on wildlife but also the exposure to both operatives and residents.
We have considerable support from City Councillors, members of the public and Friends and Residents Associations. Indeed the Friends of Sheep's Green and Lammas Land, Newnham Croft RA and Barton Road & Barton Close RA wholeheartedly joined us at the WCAC meeting 11th March 2021 in proposing that the adjoining roads to Sheep's Green and Lammas Land no longer be sprayed. As well as this active support, it is clear that around Cambridge there is now a much higher tolerance for wildflowers (rather than plug plants) and areas of long grass (rather than just mown amenity grass). One can extend this tolerance to 'weeds' which, in many boroughs, towns and even countries, are now properly accepted as flowers. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you, ideally on Zoom or Teams, to discuss this further.”
8 June 2021
PFC email to Councillor Phillipa Slatter and Councillor Nick Gay explaining Pesticide-Free Cambridge’s aims and objects.
7 June 2021
PFC email to Councillor Alex Bulat and Cllr Neil Shailer explaining Pesticide-Free Cambridge’s aims and objects. Received supportive responses from both.
7 June 2021
PFC email to Cllr Alison Whelan and 25 other new County Councillors explaining Pesticide-Free Cambridge’s aims and objects.
4 June 2021
Received copy of Freedom of Information request submitted by fellow campaigner to Cambridge City Council on its herbicide-use policy. We are grateful to them for forwarding us the Council’s response, which you can read on our separate blog. In particular, the section outlining the volumes of herbicide used last year is truly shocking. We have estimated that the area covered by just one of the above mentioned herbicides used in 2019-2020 by the City Council (132 x 5 litres of Hilite) is 88 hectares or 880,000 square metres(1), and that is only one of four herbicides used. It is an alarming figure when one thinks of the immediate effect on wildlife but also the exposure to both operatives and residents.
“In 2019/20 Cambridge City Council’s Streets and Open Spaces Operational department used the following herbicides.
· 132 x 5 Litre Hilite
· 20 x 150 gram Chikara
· 20 x 5 Litre Trustee
· 8 x 5 Litre Roundup”
2 June 2021
Piece in today's Cambridge Independent about our campaign and petition! Many thanks to Paul Brackley for covering this. See link to our Facebook post here for scan of e-version of the print copy newspaper. An online version will be available soon - www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk
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)?
(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.
Full text of Cll Collis’ response from printed minutes