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2022-23: PFC / Local Authority meetings & correspondence

On this page we will upload a rolling record of meetings and written correspondence with Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire City Council and other stakeholders in 2022-23. Copies of our public questions to council committee meetings, and answers, where received, have now been moved to a separate record. See here. Correspondence and records for 2021, 2020 and previous years have now been moved to separate blog entries.

9 January 2024, Herbicide Reduction Working Group


  • Cambridge City Council (AW, CR, DB)

  • Pesticide Free Cambridge reps



1.     Updated from trial areas and walkabouts

2.     Happy Bee Streets

3.     New equipment trials

4.     Staff engagement

5.     Management companies Comms

6.     Pesticide-Free Schools campaign

7.     Research

8.     County Council dialogue

9.     AOB

10.  Next meeting



1.     Update from trial areas and walkabouts

AW reported that walkabout has only happened in Newnham ward so far, with positive feedback from councillors.  About 10 emails recently received by the council from Newnham residents supportive of the HF policy. Trumpington proposed as the next ward  walkabout partly because it’s been taken over by the council from Countryside and partly because Hobson’s Square offers a tricky terrain to maintain (many small blocks, lots of moss).


2.     Happy Bee streets

AW mentioned that one more HPS may have been added recently but needs to be confirmed with WJ.   It was agreed that the scheme should be morphed into one to generally encourage and empower community groups to help biodiversity.  AW stressed ‘place-making’ importance of HBS that goes beyond the herbicide-free element.


3.     New Equipment trialled

It was reported that  several new pieces of equipment have been trialled:  i) Kersten weed ripper machines, petrol or electric, tried out on Cam Causeway and Barton Close. Proved to be v effective and almost no vibration (has been a serious problem with other equipment). ii) WeedingTech demo’d hot foam in the council depot. Though it relies on a lot of water, it is effective at removing some vegetation that weed rippers can’t tackle eg moss, or in awkward spots. iii) Attachments to existing street sweeping machines i.e. a weed ripper attachment in place of a sweeper on front, and usual sweeper at back to collect debris.


AW will add a proposal for the equipment they want to the next city council budget. If signed off (in Feb) then it’s likely that the ‘trial’ period would be terminated and the herbicide-free plan would enter a new phase based around implementing the new equipment i.e. truly tackling vegetation growth effectively but with non-chemical means. PFC asked about timing, and AW suggested March 24 would be the pivot point for the change. AW said there is the possibility that they allocate four staff members solely to tackling vegetation growth city-wide. This need not be seasonal, it can be year-wide.


4.     Staff Engagement

AW and DB said they’d been v pleased with the positive engagement from ops team staff.  Ops team to get more biodiversity training soon.


5.     Management Companies (‘Mancos’) Comms

AW will follow up with mancos and other stakeholders, especially Uni of Cambridge and the Uni colleges with the view to arranging a conference/seminar that was agreed on during last working group meeting.  This should take the shape of the working group (city council/ pfc) telling their story of going herbicide-free, possibly in April i.e. after the switch to the new management regime. It was agreed that during next meeting, content and format of this seminar / presentation will be discussed.


6.     Pesticide-Free Schools Campaign

PFC summarised progress to date, and the two sides to the campaign – 1) PF schools campaign (backed by city and county council and joint Mayor) aimed at school leadership the aim of which is to get pesticide-free policies embedded into both Biodiversity/sustainability, and Accessibility / Inclusion policy frameworks 2) to engage the pupils via city council’s Environment Education programme whose key remit is to deliver the Keep Britain Tidy’s Eco-Schools Green Flag award. PFC outlined previous work with Eco -Schools to incorporate pesticide free practices into reward scheme, but highlighted the very general focus in this regard.


7.     UCL Pesticides and Urban Nature Project

Update on recent online survey results and planned outputs. Short summary to be included in report going to ECSE committee meeting in March 2024.


8.     County Council dialogue

AW suggested setting up meeting between PFC and County Green Infrastructure Technology.


9.     AOB

PFC asked to discuss the comms plan, discussed in previous working group meetings as this has stalled. CR offered to update the city council comms strategy and circulate for a new meeting two weeks hence. PFC emphasised that although the herbicide reduction plan was mentioned in Cambridge Matters in spring 2023, that was in relation to the two new trial wards and as such was almost immediately superceded by the county decision and almost all of the city council land being herbicide-free. There continues to be widespread ignorance of the policy even amongst HRP supporters. Plans for Press Release and communication with Media discussed.

10. Next meeting:

Agreed that we’d meet briefly in 2 weeks time to discuss Comms plan that CR will circulate shortly, with a full meeting in 1 month’s time.


Action points:

·      Comms plan draft document to be circulated for comment

·      Conference plans for land management groups

·      Letter to management firms

·      Wendy feedback environment education programme

·      Happy bee street: current remit


6 September 2023: Herbicide-Reduction Working Group Meeting


Cambridge City Council (AS),

Pesticide-Free Cambridge (JS & BG)



  • AW outlined restructuring at the City Council including the removal of the Director of Environmental Services role. AW is now the Group Services Manager.

  • Workshop with landowning stakeholders in 2024.

  • AW will lead a walkabout with city councillors to look at the herbicide-free areas. He anticipates there will be a decision taken at the January or March 2024 Committee as to whether to continue the present HRP.

  • AW to get the communications plan back on track. PFC have provided suggestions but this has still not been acted upon. 

  • Complaints - PFC raised the fact that complaints about plant growth in gutters , e.g. in Newnham and Swavesey, lead to unnecessary concern and complaints about the HRP and that it’s a pity that herbicide-free policies both in Cambridge and elsewhere (e.g,. Brighton) are being cast in mainstream media (including recent Guardian article -, as ‘rewilding’.  It does not help that the abundance of plant growth in gutters all over Cambridge give the impression that herbicide-free means that the council are no longer doing anything about vegetation control full-stop.  PFC reported that residents in Newnham, in particular, were concerned about potential flooding as a result of lack of gutter clearance.   PFC mentioned a letter from councillor in Swavesy asking for information about what’s going on in light of growing opposition from Tory groups.  AW corroborated this with the news that a County councillor is tabling a motion to revisit the county decision to stop using herbicides on the highways. It seems the County made no provision for alternatives and, in some people’s eyes, in the city nothing is being done to clear the gutters. AW understood that city council operatives are using mechanical means to deal with the gutters so this needs to be communicated to reassure people. He also mentioned that vegetation in gutters needs to be viewed as a part of a bigger problem of inadequate street cleaning measures rather than a lack of weed control per se.  Additional equipment is needed to cope adequately with gutter growth and this has been budgeted for in 2024, alongside cut-and-collect machinery for the verges. AW suggested adding a tool for residents to report detritus build-up in their gutters  so problem areas could be tackled. PFC highlighted the fact that the street vegetation complaint form on the Happy Bee streets page ( has been removed. It was agreed that this would be reinstated in the form of a request for a street ‘deep clean’ rather than ‘weed removal’,  ie gutters complaints will be addressed by increased street cleaning /brushing, and the public could see that this was not, for instance, neglect. PFC were very supportive of this.   AW mentioned increase in funding of - £100,000 for street scene, and that this will obviously help.

  • Residents own-use of pesticides is on the rise despite it being illegal for members of the public to apply pesticides on council-owned land. Instances discussed included both herbicides and insecticide sprays and powder (e.g, for ants). PFC suggested using the citizen science information gathered in Newnham and Gurney Way about the number of plant species that have grown on the pavement and in the gutter since the areas have been untreated  with herbicide. AW agreed this should also be incorporated into the comms plan. 

  • Happy bee streets. Positive reports on plant surveys in West Chesterton, and Newnham, to be including in our newsletters, to be tweeted by council, and included in their comms plan.

  • Pesticide-Free Schools. PFC provided update about 3 x termly training events. Various case-studies, and funding sources discussed.

  • UCL Pesticides and Urban Nature Project.  AW suggested helping with a £100 prize to encourage participants.

  • Events. AW mentioned online conference on herbicide free alternatives for council employees.

  • Next meeting: agreed we’d meet in 3 weeks time (27 Sept).

9 May 2023: Herbicide Reduction Working Group Meeting

Present: PFC (BG & JS)

Alistair Wilson, Cambridge City Council Streets and Open Space – Development Manager

Representatives from City Council Operations team

Joel Carre, Cambridge City Council Head of Environmental Services

Wendy Johnston, Cambridge City Council Community Engagement and Enforcement Manager


  • Actions from last meeting

    • Invite for Exec Councillor

    • Representative from City Homes

    • List of known management companies

    • Spraying schedules

    • Use of Alloy

    • Schools campaign

  • Comms Plan

  • Research UCL

  • Trial Area Updates

  • Feedback from County Council

  • AOB

  • Date of next meeting 6th June?

Operations - Ops team having biodiversity training with Wildlife Trust. DB said he’s had to reschedule meeting with JC as he could only meet with assistant highways director who had suggested the need for an exclusion zone in the city centre which would mean ongoing herbicide spraying there. Mention of damage to old stone on footways, carriage ways etc from manual weed removal methods. Both PFC and AW expressed extreme concern about this and urged DB to consult with JC as this rows back completely on the direction of travel and contradicts the County’s own hard stop policy. JS suggested they talk to English Heritage who have stopped using herbicide on the historical sites they manage, including ancient structures and surfaces (see here for recent news coverage). JS also said that vegetation in the historical city centre would have been managed using mechanical methods and, presumably, successfully, before widespread introduction of herbicides, just a matter of decades ago, surely?

City Homes - AW mentioned recent meeting and reported it having been very positive though concerns were raised about pavement plants and potential slips, trips and falls within local authority housing estates. . Mansell Court was mentioned as an area of discussion. They also discussed concerns about presentation, especially where leaseholders pay for maintenance and expect a level of tidiness. The upshot seems to be that they will continue to use herbicide in the city homes areas but do aim to phase it out there. AW said they would have a communications plan especially for Arbury presumably where they have had complaints, perhaps largely due to the fact that residents haven’t been informed about the herbicide reduction plan.

JS suggested a workshop meeting with Cambridge University and the joint-college biodiversity strategy committee to discuss joining up the city council herbicide reduction plan with the university and college operations. Also mentioned evidence for spraying in Addenbrookes and need for better integration with HRP. AW agreed it would be a good idea to hold a workshop with all major landowning stakeholders, including PFC, to discuss a collective herbicide-free strategy. ACTION AW

Happy Bee Streets. WJ reported this generating a lot of paperwork and, essentially, is unworkable if scaled up across the city. Perhaps there could be a ‘HBS light’ version that empowers residents but doesn’t involve WJ’s resources so much? It was also pointed out that in its original, and current, version the quid pro quo for signing up is that the council stops treating their street with herbicide. But, outside of city homes/council housing, the streets are not being treated anyway. The question now is what is the incentive to sign up? BG said it is still vital to both encourage and support residents to boost biodiversity as we are in a biodiversity emergency. BG also pointed out that originally AC had said the council could not go herbicide free without the widespread HBS volunteer teams, yet the number was capped at 12 and that it was never realistic to expect HBS to be the solution at scale, that had to come from operations. JS agreed it was vital to keep the street adoption scheme to give residents option to manage vegetation in their own way which may differ to the approach of the council, even if herbicides weren’t being used.

Comms plan. Pre-circulated with PFC edits. ACTION, AW to recirculate amended version for further comments by group.

UCL project. AW agreed city council would help direct people to questionnaire for residents. Mentioned plans for a council-led mini survey, and suggested liaising with JS to discuss. ACTION AW and JS

City Council meeting with Management companies ACTION AW

PFC Schools Campaign ACTION PFC to launch with City council and Mayor’s logo

13 April 2023: Herbicide Reduction Working Group Meeting

Present: PFC (BG)

Alistair Wilson, Cambridge City Council Streets and Open Space – Development Manager

Representatives of City Council Operations team

Joel Carre, Cambridge City Council Head of Environmental Services

Cambridge City Council Communications Officer

Rebecca Jongkind Cambridge City Council

Apologies from JS, Jonathan Clarke Cambs County Council Highway Maintenance Manager


1 City Council Committee decision

2 Communications plan

3 Update on trial areas

4 Complaints tracking

5 Alternative methods update

6 County Feedback

7 Domestic/Residents use campaign

8 Happy Bee streets

9 Spraying schedule

10 AOB

  1. AW summarised the recent Cambridge City Council decision to add West Chesterton and Trumpington to the herbicide-free wards schedule, now totalling four. In addition, the city council agreed at the same time to mow just 6 times a year, not 16 as before.

  2. Comms plan. CR joined late so there was only time to really look at point 7. However as part of the wider discussion the ops team did point out the huge inconsistency of the city council promoting Happy Bee streets and herbicide-free wards and at the same time continuing to spray herbicide on ten city wards. It was suggested that this would make it difficult to persuade residents to go herbicide or pesticide-free themselves.

  3. Update on trial areas: AW and DB will meet with JC County urgently to find out what herbicide-free methods are working on County highways ACTION AW, DB, JC. BG raised the issue of property management companies/contractors in trial wards not going herbicide-free which AW and ops team agreed was a huge potential problem e.g. Countryside in Clay Farm which is still unadopted by city council but falls within Trumpington ward. AW agreed to urgently contact the various property management companies/contractors. ACTION AW

  4. Complaints tracking: JC said before city council set up a complaints procedure for problem pavement plants they should consult with County who expressly asked that they be the first point of contact for these issues as they own the highways.

  5. Alternative methods update see 3

  6. County Feedback JC not here so see 3

  7. Domestic/Residents use campaign: CR presented her summary of a comms plan aimed specifically at residents’ own use of herbicides and how to persuade them to go herbicide-free. CR wants 3-4 key snappy messages for the campaign. BG said it looked very good as far as it goes but that it needed more information on wider pesticide use, clarity on the nuances between different pesticides and information on the public health and inclusivity sides of pesticide use i.e. it is not just a biodiversity issue. Also 3-4 snappy messages required some thought. It was agreed that CR share the comms document she has at present for input from all present so as to make a decision on comms at the next meeting in early May. ACTION CR, PFC to feedback. BG said there will be opportunities to communicate the PFC and council messaging potentially at OTVC/PFC stands at Duxford Green day, the Folk Festival and Strawberry Fair

  8. Happy Bee streets. Neither Wendy Johnston nor Rina were available but DB fed back that there were now 10 Happy Bee street groups though most of these were in the process of being signed up by Rina (it seemed like some of these streets were part of one application eg AARA Ainsworth, Hooper, Sleaford st but still a demonstration of public support). BG asked that even if they hadn’t been completely processed that these streets could be taken out of the spraying rota and DB said they had been so they will not be sprayed from now on.

  9. Spraying schedule. RW said advance notice of the spraying schedule would be posted on the city council website and tweeted about for the 10 wards still being treated.

  10. Alex Collis was not present as she had not been invited by AW. This led to a brief discussion as to whether the working group will continue to involve councillors moving forward. AW to discuss with AC the following week. ACTION AW

  11. AW also suggested he discuss involving a representative from city homes (city council housing). BG and the ops team all agreed involving a representative for council housing would be very important not least because 1) BG knows of residents in the East Rd estate who want to go herbicide-free and 2) council housing is now the principle area that will be treated with herbicide given than city council ops team are not treating county highways any more, in accordance with the recent County decision to go herbicide-free themselves. ACTION AW

  12. AW suggested that they should involve the new Biodiversity officer (ex-Cambridge Past Present & Future) when they start in July. ACTION AW

  13. BG raised the issue of when or whether the city council would support the PFC Pesticide-Free schools campaign. As AC was absent from the meeting AW said he would have a meeting with her early the following week and get back to PFC with a response by the end of that week or by the end of April at the latest. ACTION AW AC

16 March 2023: Herbicide Reduction Working Group Meeting


  • PFC (JS and BG)

  • Cllr Alex Collis, City Councillor for King’s Hedges, Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Food Justice and Community Development

  • Alistair Wilson, Cambridge City Council Streets and Open Space – Development Manager

  • Cllr Wendy Johnston, Cambridge City Council Community Engagement and Enforcement Manager

  • Joel Carre, Cambridge City Council Head of Environmental Services

  • Jonathan Clarke, Cambs County Council Highway Maintenance Manager

  • Cambridge City Council Communications Officer

  • City Council Operations team representatives


  • AW’s report, An Update on the Herbicide Reduction Plan (here).

  • Trial in West Chesterton and Trumpington.

  • Update from County.

  • Review press release for 23 March

  • Update on Comms Plan.

  • Recent complaint from Newnham.

  • Happy Bee Street Update.

Herbicide Reduction Plan Report

AW invited questions about the report. PFC commented that wire-brushing was absent from the Appendix, and asked for this to be added. PFC also asked for a comment to be added to section on accessibility and poverty, about the accessibility issues posed by herbicides themselves in addition to those posed by pavement plants as trip hazards etc. PFC asked for details to be added of the Herbicide Reduction Working group, with dates of meetings thus far, and decisions reached in previous meetings. This should include reference to the commitment to avoid spraying around tree roots, and during school commutes. AW agreed to add all of these details.

PFC asked what methods had actually been used in the trial areas as it wasn’t apparent from the report. Wire-brushing in particular is notably absent from methods listed in the Appendix. Operative reps replied that ‘weed ripper’ / wirebrushing machines were used for the road channel (gutter) and hoes/shovels for pavement plants. Wirebrushing was effective but there are often problems of access due to car parking. Where the carriageway has been given a thin surface coat of tarmac, wirebrushing can damage the highway. It was explained that manual weeding with hoes and shovels only took off the top of the plants which can then re-grow. It is also a very labour-intensive. PFC asked if more detail could be added to the report about the different forms of manual weed control applied in the various areas, so that we know how the relative pros and cons are shaping future trials.

Action: AW to add these details to the report.

Trials in Trumpington and West Chesterton

PFC asked about the decision to change from Coleridge (as per last month’s meeting). It was explained that West Chesterton was considered more suitable as complimentary extension of Arbury.

Update from County

JC said that the County council had passed the motion to move, as of now, completely from network-wide herbicide treatment to priority-based non-chemical means of ‘weed’ removal, with the exception of invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed. BG asked if JC could circulate a link to this decision as it was not obviously available in the 7th March Highways and Transport meeting online information. PFCS asked if County would insist that this change in strategy would be implemented by partners and sub-contractors such as Parish Councils. JC said that was the intention but the details had yet to be worked out. In May, JC said County would set up a ‘Green team’ to oversee these changes, within which would also be the switch to mowing less as per Plantlife guidelines adopted several years ago. It was confirmed that the new ‘Green team’ would start in May, and that funding would be sought to turn this into policy. JC mentioned plans for a working group that would oversee progress, to which PFC would be invited to join.

Press release

AW said this would be prepared prior to the ECSC meeting of 23rd March so as to go out on 24th March. PFC will be sent a draft for their input in the form of a quote after text has been internally approved.

Update on Comms plan

Given recent comms meeting on 7 March (see record below) this item was skipped

Complaint in Newnham

AW outlined a complaint from Newnham Croft RA that many road channels were full of vegetation and this represented a flooding risk. The RA also asked what, if anything, the council had done to tackle this issue in Newnham as a herbicide-free ward? Operations reps clarified that they had tackled Newnham’s road channels as and where they could get access but that sometimes proved very difficult with so many parked cars.

Happy Bee street update

WJ said that out of the 12 interested groups initially, two are now fully set up - Sedgwick Street and Ascham Rd. Four more groups are in the process of being set up - Great eastern St, Hazelwood Close, Cory Rd and Priory St. The procedure had been streamlined a little and now it’s basically the Streets and Open Spaces’ volunteers process.


PFC asked what the legal and procedural process was for a council to change the details of a motion it had passed, specifically the Herbicide-Free motion of July 2021 where it was agreed to go herbicide free at the end of 2022 and now, of course, that has not happened. AC replied that the motion stated there would be a commitment to work towards going herbicide free (rather than a firm decision to a hard stop by end of 2022) and that that commitment still stood. It was agreed that AW and AC would check the wording of the Motion.

Next meeting:

Follow-up meeting scheduled for 13 April 2023.

15 March 2023: PFC meeting with Shadow Cambridge City Councillors in advance of upcoming ECSC meeting


  • PFC (JS and BG)

  • Cheney Payne Lib Dem Cllr, Olaf Hauk Lib Dem Cllr for Trumpington

  • Apologies: Hannah Charlotte Copley Green Cllr for Abbey

Discussion points:

  • PFC provided an update on the recent Herbicide-Reduction Working Group meeting on 28 Feb (see details below), most notably the decision to add two more herbicide free trials to the schedule and to delay the hard stop of herbicide spraying across the city for another year in keeping with the July 2021 herbicide-free motion.

  • Public questions for forthcoming March 23rd Environment & Security Community Committee meeting (details here) in relation to Herbicide-Reduction report that has now been published (see here).

  • Legal status and wording of July 2021 herbicide-free motion.

  • Herbicide-Reduction Working group membership (need for shadow councillors to be on board).

  • Joint press release.

7 March 2023: PFC / Cambridge City Council Comms Meeting (follow up from Herbicide Reduction Working Group meeting on 28 Feb)


  • PFC (JS and BG)

  • Cllr Alex Collis, City Councillor for King’s Hedges, Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Food Justice and Community Development

  • Alistair Wilson, Cambridge City Council Streets and Open Space – Development Manager

  • Cllr Wendy Johnston, Cambridge City Council Community Engagement and Enforcement Manager

  • Cambridge City Council Communications Officer

Agenda: to discuss and decide upon next steps in the communications strategy for the Cambridge City Council’s herbicide reduction plan (HRP), Happy Bee Streets (HBS), residents’ pesticide use, PFC’s pesticide-free schools campaign and the UCL urban nature and pesticides project.

AW reported (following from 28 Feb meeting) that Cambridgeshire County council had decided to have a ‘hard stop’ and end the use of herbicides in its highways management. This, therefore, would mean the same for the City Council at least in the long term, but that as discussed on 28 Feb, the City Council wanted a gradual shift, i.e. two more herbicide-free wards -West Chesterton (instead of Coleridge as discussed at the last working group meeting) and Trumpington- and not the rest of the city for now, so as to avoid the problems experienced where a hard stop has happened e.g. Brighton where the council has had to hurriedly recruit volunteers to manage pavement plant growth after the event, so to speak (see here for details:). Likewise, the County would move to just four verge cuts per year, a significant reduction from current regime. These decisions, he said, were driven by budgetary constraints i.e. they will save the County money.

WJ regarding HBS she said they could not streamline the volunteer application process any further. The EIP funding allocated to HBS meant that they can take on more volunteer teams but each team takes a lot of council time and effort so it was unrealistic to roll it out wholesale at present. Ascham Rd and Sedgewick St groups are set up. Three more are in the process of signing up: Great Eastern Street, Priory Street and Cory Rd (or Chalk Rd?).

That said, AC was concerned that there are no HBS groups in King’s Hedges or East Chesterton. She suggested calling in at the Church of the Good Shepherd feed hub on Tuesday mornings with a stall and information as perhaps being a more direct and successful strategy than going via NCCP and FECRA.

It was also suggested that the existing individual SOS volunteers could be approached to compliment happy bee street scheme, and to spread the word about the benefits of pesticide-free initiatives.

WJ mentioned a bi-monthly session for recyling teams that would be a good venue to get volunteers on board with the pesticide-free message.

PFC and AW agreed to a joint press release on the progress of the HRP. CR said she could put pieces in the council magazines Open Door and Cambridge Matters as well as use social media.

AC suggested a PFC, County and City collective initiative in the form of a short film on trial herbicide-free areas, happy bee streets etc. She also suggested having more in the way of face-to-face discussions/walk-arounds with residents.

Action Points:

  • CR to put a piece in the next Cambridge Matters and Open Door about HBS and the HRP extension to two new herbicide-free wards.

  • PFC to provide copy for AW to include in a joint press release to go out 23rd March before the pre-election embargo.

  • PFC to provide a paragraph on their Pesticide-free schools for AW’s HRP report.

  • JS to provide a paragraph on the UCL project for AW’s HRP report, in order to provide further context.

  • AW, CR to communicate post-elections a pesticide-free message aimed at residents, with PFC’s input.

  • AW to share schools eco newsletter with PFC for us to check wording.

  • PFC to send Pesticide-Free schools letter and guidance documents for City Council’s endorsement.

28 February 2023

PFC –Cambridge City Council: Herbicide Reduction Working Group meeting


  • Alistair Wilson, Cambridge City Council, Green Space Manager

  • Joel Carre, Cambridge City Council, Head of Environmental Services

  • Cllr Alex Collis, Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Food Justice and Community Development (Labour)

  • Cambridge City Council, Communications Officer

  • Operations Team reps

  • PFC (JS)


Cllr Wendy Johnston, Community Engagement and Enforcement Manager


  1. Feedback on herbicide-free wards

  2. Progress report on move to city-wide council-managed land becoming herbicide-free as per July 2021 Herbicide-Free motion

  3. Happy Bee Streets improvements and progress report

  4. Pesticide-Free Cambridge schools/colleges/businesses campaign and related letter and pesticide-free guide that are going to County and Mayor's office for endorsement (to include City Council/Herbicide Working Group?)

  5. CCC/PFC awareness-building campaign focused on residents' pesticide use

  6. Results of UCL Urban pesticides project

  7. Herbicide Working Group press release

  8. Date of next meeting

Discussion points:

1. Feedback on herbicide-free wards

AW reported that he’d completed a walk around of the two wards, there were very few pavement weeds in Newnham, reportedly due to ‘sealed’ pavements. There were many more in Arbury including damaging plants such as Buddleia and Sycamore. Notes will be incorporated into the report that is to go to ECSC committee later this month, 23 March 2023 (see here)

Operations mentioned that it was exceptionally dry year last year so this will have impacted on low weed growth in Newnham, and that pavement around housing estates is a particular concern in terms of plant growth damage etc (e.g., Brimley close in Arbury).

PFC asked for specific feedback on the trials especially with regards relative effectiveness of the different methods applied in the mini-trial before being rolled out across the two different wards.

AW reported that steam was a non-starter due to environmental non-sustainability and high costs, and that this conclusion draws on the outcome of trials in Cardiff and a related report from Swansea university. Wire brushes, and ‘deep cleaning’ were therefore deemed to be the only effective resource to hand, with increased reliance on community volunteers, either individually, or as part of Happy Bee scheme, being considered as crucial to the success of any herbicide-free policy across the city.

PFC mentioned that there had been community complaints about the tar sealed pavements and their impact on valued pavement plants in Newnham (see here for details) and that a distinction needed to be made between pavement plants that contributed to biodiversity and aesthetics (in keeping with published research that recognized that the impact of such ‘weeds’ was higher than planted ‘wildflower’ meadows (see here) - as long as they weren’t posing a risk hazards, and intrusive plants such as Buddleia and Sycamore that can cause damage to infrastructure. PFC asked whether there had been specific complaints about herbicide-free methods. Operatives confirmed that no complaints had been received for Newnham, but there had been 10-15 from Arbury.

Action: AW to produce report for 23 March

2. Progress report on move to city-wide council-managed land becoming herbicide-free as per July 2021 Herbicide-Free motion

PFC asked for clarity on the council’s plans in light of the commitment made in July 2021 for the city to be completely herbicide-free by end of 2021. City council representatives expressed concerns about rolling it out across the city with immediate effect, and that this might ‘overwhelm’ operative teams, pointing out how much more labour-intensive it was compared to herbicide use, taking weeks instead of days, also increased costs, anticipated complaints by neighbours etc, and that it was too early to assess impacts of Newnham and Arbury trials, and reduced spraying across the city last year (1.5 rather than 2 annual applications) because of the drought.

Instead of a blanket and immediate shift to herbicide-free methods across the city, the council proposed that the current trials in Newnham and Arbury be continued for another year, and that two more trial wards – possibly Trumpington and Coleridge - are added. PFC suggested that there was already considerable support for Abbey and west Chesterton (as there was when the original two trial ward were chosen) going herbicide-free. This suggestion was discussed on the grounds that they were deemed too similar to Arbury and Newnham.

PFC expressed concern that commitments made following the July 2021 motion to end herbicide use by end of 2022 was being backtracked and that this was likely to cause great disappointment. AC emphasised the need to take things in stages and not to 'overwhelm' the public.

Operations explained that last year across the non-trial areas, there was only one and a half application, with a blanket, but very late application in Spring, and just touch-spraying in late August. It was proposed reducing this to just one spray this year and doing it earlier rather than later in the Spring so that the plant die off wasn’t so noticeable and ‘ugly’ as when the plants become mature and then leave very noticeable yellow die off area on the pavement. Council proposed using brush machine in the late summer instead of a second spray, and only doing one-off spraying of Buddleia and Sycamore if necessary and that this was acceptable as long as glyphosate remains licenced

Council confirmed that the muddy edges on the Barnwell road verges were the result of splash-back from the salting operations on the road.

Joel Carre (JC) explained that the final decision will rest with County Council. It is still unclear whether they have moved to herbicide-free methods across their entire estate and whether a directive will thus be made to City regarding their management of County land even if City receive less in the way of funds than the costs required to maintain herbicide-free status. PFC mentioned indications that county had already made the transition to herbicide-free methods based on recent meetings with county councillors (see here), and city confirmed that the only indication they’d seen to this effect was in a recent newspaper article in the Fenland Citizen (a post which we shared on our facebook page on 16 February. There was mention of a proposed joint trial involving city and county, but the full details may not be provided until County’s report on such matters which is due by 8 March, and which will be cross referenced in City’s report for 23 March.

PFC asked whether the commitment made in previous meeting (7 April 2022 meeting with City Council) to publish spraying schedules ahead of time, and to avoid spraying during school commute (22 May 2022 working group meeting) will still be honoured. Council confirmed that both were now policy.

Action: AW to produce report for 23 March further to receiving County report on 8 March

3. Happy Bee Streets improvements and progress report

AW mentioned that there were new sign-ups coming in and that there was now need for a strong campaign to get more streets on board. JC suggested perhaps drawing on individual street volunteers (who normally do things like litter picking and graffiti removal) in addition to whole street groups.

Need to have good communication drive but this needs to happen before pre-election embargo (deadline is 26 March, and report goes out on 22 March, so we need to get content prepared so that it can go out straight afterwards, and before the deadline).

Action: PFC/AW/CR to meet next week to discuss comms strategy/content (this has now been scheduled for 7 March).

4. Pesticide-Free Cambridge schools/colleges/businesses campaign and related letter and pesticide-free guide that are going to County and Mayor's office for endorsement (to include City Council/Herbicide Working Group?)

PFC outlined details of our previous meetings with County Council and the shared authority Mayor over the last 8 months (see here), and the agreement for them to be either co-signatories or endorsing bodies on our letter and guidance document to go out to schools, colleges and selected service providers. She asked whether the city (either as working group or otherwise) would be willing to do similar. Council expressed support ‘depending on content’, and suggested that we send them drafts, and a short paragraph outlining the initiative so that this can be included in report for 23 March.

Action: JS to forward documents and short text summarizing initiative. Do this before comms meeting on 7 March, 11.45 am on Teams.

5. CCC/PFC awareness-building campaign focused on residents' pesticide use

AW indicated support for a council-led campaign that raises awareness about the harms associated with private garden pesticides, and that provides guidance on alternatives. PFC outlined the need for such guidance to also incorporate private use of pesticides (particularly insecticidal powder given its high volatility, and toxic impact on vulnerable groups), on public land adjoining private properties (pavements etc), and that this needs to be framed as a health equality matters. Council supported this proposal and AW suggested we met to discuss content of association campaign text/comms (see point 3 above).

Action: PFC/AW/CR to meet next week to discuss comms strategy/content (this has now been scheduled for 7 March, 11.45 am).

6. UCL Urban nature & pesticides project

JS outlined project aims and objectives of UCL Project (details here), both in terms of broader emphasis on diachronic environmental cultures and their impacts on human-nature engagements past, present and future, and the pilot-study that is focusing on Cambridge and public reception of changes in council landscaping practices including its herbicide reduction plan. Questionnaires will be launched shortly and asked whether City Council could help with distribution and recruitment. AW suggested that this could be added to the council’s Biodiversity/HBS page, and that a project summary should be included in his 23 March report as it provides important context to its HRP.

ACTION: JS to provide text for report, and to meet with AW next week to discuss further (think this can be conjoined with 7 March, 11.45 am meeting).

7. Herbicide Working Group press release

Wasn’t discussed

8. Date of next meeting

This has been scheduled for 16 March 2023, 10-11 am (Teams) so that updates can be discussed prior to 22 March report.

27 January 2023: Pesticide-Free Schools Meeting - PFC & Cambridgeshire County and Cambridge City Councillors

Present: PFC (JS and BG)

Cllr Hillary Cox-Condron (HCC), County Councillor for Arbury

Cllr Neil Shailer (NS), City Councillor for Romsey and member of the County Transport and Highways Committee

Cllr Alex Bulat (AB), Labour County Councillor for Abbey.

Apologies from:

Cllr Bryony Goodliffe (BG), City Councillor for Cherry Hinton and member of the County Council Children and Young Persons Committee.


  1. Updates on action points from our previous Pesticide-Free Schools meetings on 2 Sept 2022. Discussion points and action points from two related meetings, with Mayor Nik Johnson and HCC on 7 Sept 2022, and with Phil Clarke and HCC on 12 Sept 2022 are also relevant. 1.1 PFC draft letter/information sheet, and our Pesticide-Free Guide to go out to schools (pre-circulated) for discussion on communication and distribution. 1.2 Potential schools for participation in campaign 1.3 Training and learning courses 1.4 Pesticide exposure as health equality and accessibility issue

  2. Update on where we are with Herbicide-Free Working group, still awaiting confirmed meeting date having not met since May 2022, and having not yet received any information from City Council on outcome of two-ward herbicide-free trials and commitments made in July 2021 to end all council herbicide spraying by end of 2022.

  3. UCL project.

Discussion points:

  • NS explained that County and City had been collaborating in the two-ward herbicide-free trials in Arbury and Newnham from Spring 2022. Herbicide-free alternatives used included steam treatments on drainage gates and reusing organic matter cleared out of roadside gulleys. Not using Glyphosate to spray the roadside and reusing material from the gutter saved the council considerable money, for instance not also having to buy compost and spend time dealing with the gutter waste. NS said that City would adhere to its agreement to have ceased all herbicide use on land it manages as of the end of 2022 and that the County Council was rolling out the same herbicide-free management practice across all five of the districts in Cambridgeshire. He expected, however, that this would still take time to filter down through contractors and sub-contractors but that the message is being actively communicated . JS asked whether the unpopular, heavy tarmacing of pavements in Newnham (see record for 13/7/22 here) was part of the new herbicide-free policy. NS indicated that it was not. NS was asked by PFC and HCC if he could provide a report outlining these decisions/developments.

  • PFC outlined the problem that Glyphosate and other pesticides (particularly insecticides used for ants and wasps) are widely used in school grounds and in and around school buildings, and that this threatens to compromise the benefit of the councils' Herbicide Reduction Plan. NS and HCC reiterated the support they had expressed during earlier meetings for the County and City Councils to give their formal backing to PFC’s Pesticide-Free Schools campaign. As was agreed during meetings on 2 and 7 September 2022 PFC has produced two documents, i) a letter to be sent to schools; and ii) a Guide outlining alternatives to synthetic herbicides and insecticides for dealing with weeds and insects in and around schools (See here for downloadable version). It was agreed that PFC would send drafts of both documents to Cllr Goodliffe in her capacity as member of Children and Young Person’s Committee and, separately, to Mayor Nik Johnson who during our 7 September 2022 meeting also expressed support.

  • Given the progress on Highways it was agreed that a County Council motion (discussed during our meeting of 15 July 2022 ) was no longer necessary, however, it was agreed that a County Council motion is required in order to properly frame urban pesticide-use and pesticide-exposure as an equality and disability access rights issue in addition to a biodiversity and public health issue. There was some discussion as to whether this would be best framed as a full council motion or a community paper. JS (PFC) further outlined the problematic absence of pesticides from the majority of service providers’ biodiversity and disability access policies and the need to remedy this through a motion that would call for full disclosure of past, present and future pesticide applications, as well as any pesticide-free measures already in place, to be properly embedded in both sets of public-facing policies. This would allow the general public to make informed decisions about using and supporting services from both a biodiversity and public health perspective, and would be crucial for those who have health concerns about pesticide-exposure in private and public spaces.

  • JS outlined a UCL project on pesticides and urban nature and a pilot-study, about to be launched, that will focus on Cambridge and the wder outcomes of the council's Herbicide-Reduction plan.

Action points:

  • PFC to send draft motion on pesticides, biodiversity, health equality, and disability rights to HCC, NS and AB (for HCC to take to the March Full Committee meeting).

  • PFC to send draft schools letter and Guide to BG (cc HCC, AB, NS).

  • PFC to send draft schools letter and Guide to Mayor Nik Johnson.

  • AB to discuss school letter and Guide at the next Cambridge Labour Group meeting.

  • PFC to follow-up with NS asking for documentation of policy regarding herbicide-free practice in the city, county and in the parishes, especially as we are still awaiting an update from City Council on how and when the lessons from the Spring 2022 two-ward trials are being rolled out.

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 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.

12 Sept 2022: Pesticide-Free Schools meeting


  • PFC (JS & BG)

  • Phil Clarke, County Council Biodiversity and Green Spaces Manager, Place and Sustainability and Historic & Natural Environment

  • Hilary Cox Condron County Council Councillor for Arbury Ward

Summary of discussion points:

  1. Strengthening alliances to move forward with PFC pesticide-free schools campaign and to build our communications strategy aimed at the colleges and universities and the wider public.

  2. Non-synthetic pest and weed control measures across eight county nature reserves.

  3. Developing pesticide-free spaces is in the interests of biodiversity and public health but also disability rights, equality and access, and these factors should be better highlighted and celebrated accordingly on visitor websites etc.

Action points:

  1. PFC to contribute towards planned section on pesticide reduction within Doubling Nature scheme.

  2. PC to communicate outcomes of meeting to the County council – the Highways, Rural estates, schools.

  3. PFC to contact Strategic Parks and Green spaces (SPAG) group (formerly Future Parks accelerator project) to discuss possibly adding urban pesticide use as one of the themes discussed at their forum meetings, and to propose inclusion of SPAG as a signatory on letters and documentation that we are preparing for distribution amongst schools, colleges, universities, businesses, and residents. Future Parks may also offer a useful framework within which to tackle the use of pesticides and other turf-management chemicals on sports grounds that border, or form part of parkland and nature reserves.

  4. PFC to contact Natural Cambridgeshire to discuss building on existing collaborations such as the Cambridge City Council, PFC, Natural Cambridgeshire Happy Bee Street scheme.

  5. PFC and HCC to liaise over incorporating pesticide-free methods into training and learning courses, and developing the equality and accessibility side of pesticide use in Cambridge.

7 Sept 2022: PFC meeting with Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of the Combined Authority


  • PFC (JS and BG)

  • Nik Johnson, Mayor of the Combined Authority

  • Alex Bulat County Cllr for Abbey ward (Labour)

  • Hilary Cox Condron County Cllr for Arbury ward (Labour)

  • Niel Shailer City Cllr for Romsey ward (Labour) and Vice-Chair of the County Council Highways Committee

Discussion points:

  1. PFC Pesticide-Free Schools campaign: embedding pesticide-free policies into long term practice.

  2. Relating campaign to Combined Authority’s Climate Policy and its commitment to address equalities.

  3. Developing pesticide-free training with Cambridgeshire Skills team.

Action points:

  1. PFC are developing a formal proposal to Mayor Johnson and they will include him in the documentation they are producing for City and County Council approval to go to schools and colleges, as well as a planned public information letter that PFC is working on for proposed distribution to residents by the City Council (as per their original pesticide-free petition which asks the council to take responsibility in raising awareness about the benefits of going pesticide-free)

  2. AB, HCC and NS agreed to let PFC know of potential schools from outside Cambridge itself that could participate in the pesticide-free school campaign. PFC already has several candidates within Cambridge itself.

2 September 2022: PFC Pesticide-Free Schools meeting with City and County councillors


  • PFC (JS and BG)

  • Alex Bulat County Cllr for Abbey ward (Labour)

  • Naomi Bennett City Cllr for Abbey ward (Green)

  • Mike Davey City Cllr for Petersfield ward (Labour) and Governor at Galfrid's School

  • Hilary Cox Condron County Cllr for Arbury ward (Labour)

  • Bryony Goodliffe City Cllr for Cherry Hinton ward (Labour) and Chair of the Children & Young People County Council Committee

Discussion points:

  1. PFC Pesticide-free schools campaign: how to embed within county council policy.

  2. Embedding pesticide-free policy into Eco schools certification procedures.

  3. Need to focus on selection of case studies including a) new build schools that have never used pesticides, b) those that shifted away from pesticide use, c) those that have reverted to using pesticides despite having experimented with pesticide-free measures, d) those using pesticides routinely. Where pesticide-free measures are implemented by one school within a larger academy, this can then be applied across the group.

Action points:

  1. The councillors universally agreed to back a joint communication strategy between PFC, City and County Councils to schools detailing: 1) the case for going pesticide-free; 2) the range of non-toxic alternatives that can be used instead of synthetic pesticides; and 3) some positive success stories.

  2. PFC to draft two documents for approval by City and County Councls: a) to explain the strategy internally to City and County Council; b) to communicate the strategy externally to schools.

  3. PFC and HCC to discuss how new council skills initiative could incorporate training on what's needed to go pesticide-free.

15 July 2022

Follow up letter from Cllr Hilary Cox Condron, further to our earlier meeting, cced to Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, Cllr Richard Howitt, Cllr Neil Shailer, Cllr Nick Gay, Cllr Alex Bulat.

"Following another meeting with Pesticide Free Cambridge I would like to gather learnings to date about the pesticide free trials in Arbury and Newnham. Do highways have any feedback?
I will continue conversations with Biodiversity officer and Natural Cambridgeshire about developing and supporting a campaign for 'Eco schools' to encourage committing to being pesticide free.
I will find out our current policies on pesticide and insecticide use on other county public spaces. Libraries? Parks?
I will research other programmes in place and other smaller trials.
I believe a ban on pesticides and insecticides in schools is our duty of care, in line with our climate change, biodiversity and health policies.
I would like us to commit to banning the use in schools education and awareness and lobbying.

15 July 2022: PFC / County pesticide-free towns and schools meeting


  • PFC (JS & BG)

  • Hilary Cox Condron County Cllr for Arbury ward (Labour)


  • Bryony Goodliffe City Cllr for Cherry Hinton ward (Labour) and Chair of the Children & Young People County Council Committee

Discussion and action points:

  1. HCC reported on county training on non-chemical alternatives to herbicides following mess-up in Spring 2022 when areas in Herbicide-free ward Newnham were mistakenly sprayed.

  2. PFC asked whether the tarmacking of pavements reportly taking place in Newnham right up to the edges is part of a new strategy to remove the cracks where pavement plants can grow.

  3. PFC called for better county representation at HRP working group meetings? HCC to discuss with Cllr Collis and Alistair Wilson.

  4. HCC to contact Lucy Nethsingha head of county council for support/action.

  5. Arbury library date for public PFC /More than weeds, Happy Bee streets event.

  6. HCC to ask county highways which kinds of alternatives are used if not using herbicides.

  7. HCC to check with Bryony Goodliffe which powers County have over schools with respect to pesticide use.

  8. HCC to draft a pesticide-free schools motion, with PFC input for next next full county meeting.

  9. Strengthening ties with Natural Cambridgeshire: HCC to facilitate meeting.

  10. Eco mark green flag for schools, Mayfield and Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination, PFC school visit a possibility.

  11. PCD and HCC to liaise over producing short films featuring interviews with our contacts at various local sports clubs that are going or have gone pesticide-free.

16 June 2022

PFC (JS & BG) meeting with Council Biodiversity team to agree agenda points for next Herbicide-Free Working group meeting

Discussion points:

  • Weed-control methods being used in herbicide-free trial areas. Success of trials crucial for overall success of Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP).

  • Negative and positive feedback on two-ward herbicide-free trials and Happy Bee streets (HBS).

  • Take-up of HBS outside herbicide-free wards: 9 outstanding HBS applications and Sedgewick Street group was now set up.

  • Take-up of HBS in herbicide-free trial wards for those that might want to manage weeds in other ways than those being applied by council: 0.

  • Need for public information campaigns.

  • Reporting and evaluation.

  • Press release

  • Tying up with cancer research charities.

PFC followed up by email on 31 July for update on timing of working gropu meeting, but no further details forthcoming.

15 June 2022

PFC (BG) meeting with Biodiversity team, Cllr Richard Robertson, and local residents on Happy Bee Streets (HBS) application procedure.

Discussion and action points :

  1. Volunteer sign-up challenges related to application templates, liability insurance, and local consensus.

  2. Responsibility to clear up litter and clear out the gutters remains with council.

  3. Cllr Robertson to contact the city council insurance person to discuss amending the terms of their public liability insurance so one volunteer could sign up and have their local team covered without any additional bureaucracy.

18 May 2022: Herbicide spraying in Cambridge at 8.17 am this morning, in the middle of the busiest school commute time.

And despite commitments reiterated at recent Herbicide Reduction Scheme Working Group meeting (amongst a list of other commitments - see entry for 12 May 2022) to avoid all spraying between 8.00-9.00 and 3.00-4.00

Operatives were seen spraying on Mowbray Road (around the junction with Glebe Road ) and Holbrook Road (as shown in photo). At the time, Mowbray road was teeming with kids and families, being as it is a major commuting route to a number of schools in the area (Homerton Nursery, Perse Pelican, Queen Edith Primary, Perse Upper, Trumpington Community College to name just a few).

Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic and endocrine disrupting impacts of glyphosate, and pesticides in general. This is why we've asked the council to inform schools 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 that this is now part of council policy at face value, the logical conclusion being that we can safely assume that our children are no longer at risk of coming into direct contact with herbicides as they're being sprayed. We will report this instance (again) to Cambridge City Council Environmental Services and will repeat our request for no spraying to take place ANYWHERE in the city during the school commute period.

It isn't enough to avoid the roads immediately outside schools as obviously kids have to get to school from all over the city. Clearly this doesn't preclude kids coming into contact with herbicides in the two weeks that it takes for visual evidence to show up, hence our continuing to campaign for signage to be put up immediately after spraying, and for a complete ban of this horrible practice by the end of the year.

Please continue to send us photos and reports of any further contraventions of the council's policy regarding herbicide-use in areas beyond its two-ward herbicide-free trials (see second image here which lists some of the commitments reiterated at recent working group meeting).

12 May 2022

Great to have had our first Herbicide Reduction Scheme for Cambridge Working Group meeting on 12 May, working together with Cambridge City Council and other key stakeholders towards a truly pesticide-free Cambridge by the end of the year.

Agenda points from Pesticide Free/Herbicide Reduction Scheme Working Group's first meeting last week, with co-leads from Pesticide-Free Cambridge joining representatives from Cambridge City Council and partner groups. We're delighted this is finally happening with a meeting to take place monthly to monitor the progress of the council's Herbicide Reduction Scheme.

A joint press release is to follow, but in the interests of clearing up any confusion over what is and isn't part of current council policy over herbicide-use in areas beyond its two-ward herbicide-free trial that's currently going on in Newnham and Arbury (and so that suspected contraventions can be reported as soon as possible), we wanted to highlight some of the key commiments that are now in place.

i) No council herbicide spraying to take place around 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 members of the public should be using pesticides (herbicides or insecticides) on public spaces.

If you notice any suspected contravention of these rules around Cambridge please do report them to Cambridge Environmental Services stating that they go against its Herbicide Reduction Scheme and that you wish them to investigate who is responsible. As we have seen with recent cases over the last few months, spraying may have been carried by agencies other than the City Council. A soon-to-be-launched council reporting system that was committed to at a previous meeting (7/4/22) will make this even easier (for this and previous action points see

Additionally, any professional or private use of herbicides or insecticides that is deemed to be irresponsible and hazardous to others' health should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive using this form

More information on reporting pesticide incidents:

7 April 2022

Pesticide-Free Cambridge meeting with Cambridge City Council Streets and Open Spaces and Biodiversity Team.

Present: Julia Shaw & Ben Greig, Pesticide-Free Cambridge (PFC); Alistair Wilson, Cambridge City Council Streets & Open Spaces; Rob Martyr, Cambridge City Council Biodiversity Team; Cllr Alex Collis.

Apologies: Guy Belcher, Cambridge City Council Biodiversity Team; Jon Clarke, Cambridgeshire County Council.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP), the two herbicide-free wards and the herbicide-free adoption scheme (HFS) or ‘Bee-friendly streets’ (see link here), and to get some clarity on the suspected spraying that was witnessed in Newnham in April (see link here), one of the two herbicide-free wards. This was the first opportunity we’ve had to discuss such matters since the last Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee (ECSC) Meeting on 27 January 2022 (see here for our related press release).

Full meeting agenda:

1. Update on where we are with the Trial and Herbicide Free Streets

2. Update on spraying schedules

3. How do we review the Trial areas to give the whole city application the best chance?

4. Any alternatives that we think we could usefully add value to the Trial?

5. reporting system

6. Definition of 'weeds' in herbicide free wards and street adoption areas

7. Signage

8. Update on who is responsible for recent spraying in Newnham and Abbey

9. Frequency of future meetings and membership?

10. AOB

1. Update on where we are with the Trial and Herbicide-Free Streets

As the HRP, the HFS and the two herbicide-free wards had been approved at the January ECSC meeting, these were all in the process of being rolled out. AW admitted to some delays, e.g. in the launch of the website for HFS adoption, publishing spraying schedules, and indeed in communication of the overall HRP to the public generally.

RM said that there were at least nine applications for the HFS scheme and they expected more given that the publicity had only just started. AW saw no reason why the council could not support more than the 12 streets initially promised. RM also mentioned that the council has committed to making eight hectares of grass verge better for wildlife by not spraying and keeping the grass long.

2. Update on spraying schedules

AW said the city council had not started herbicide spraying yet as they wanted first to have published the schedule as a webpage with a list of streets to which dates could be added (as per what was agreed at the January ECSC). It would be quite a simple tool but easy for the public to use. RM suggested the council tweet when they were about to spray a particular street/area.

JS asked that the council avoided spraying during school drop-off and pick-up times (i.e., between 8.00-9.00 am, and 3.00-4.00 pm) and also to pre-warn schools directly in advance of any spraying in the surrounding streets. AW agreed to this and it was generally agreed that there was also an opportunity for PFC, the City and County councils to collaborate in educating schools about going pesticide-free and in particular, to bringing the ‘roadshow’ to schools in the two already herbicide-free wards, both as an educational tool as well as to avoid undermining the benefits afforded by the absence of spraying in the immediately surrounding vicinity.

3. How do we review the Trial areas to give the whole city application the best chance?

It was agreed at the January ECSC meeting that in order to monitor and review the HRP, and therefore give it the best chance of success, a working group should be established that met monthly and that this would include representatives from PFC Membership was further discussed during today’s meeting and agreed that it would include AW and RM (Cambridge City Council), BG and JS (PFC), a representative from the City Council Operations team, two County Council highway managers (to be nominated by Jon Clarke), a member of the City Council Community Engagement team , member of the Council Housing team, and possibly someone from one of the residents associations groups, and / or a resident participating in the herbicide-free street adoption scheme so as to involve the public directly.

4. Any alternatives that we think we could usefully add value to the Trial?

It was agreed that it’s important to gauge public perception of i) pesticides and their impact on health and biodiversity, and ii) the HRP, as a means of usefully measuring the success of the HRP scheme. JS mentioned that she is currently leading a UCL research project on urban pesticides that will include a questionnaire on patterns of pesticide-use, and public attitudes towards urban nature, ‘pests’ and pesticide-use in Cambridge (in collaboration with PFC, details here). The possibility of several questionnaires was considered: a shorter survey designed by the City Council /PFC working group that can go live very soon, followed by a more detailed, longer PFC/UCL one later in the year. An alternative is to combine the two into a single UCL/City Council/PFC questionnaire run over two phases, with the first, shorter version, being issued now, followed by another in a year’s time to monitor changes in attitudes following the HRP scheme. JS is to look into how best we might do this.

5. Reporting system

AW said the reporting system for breaches of the HRP (spraying by the public on any public land, whether or not in a herbicide-free zone, or by council operatives in herbicide-free areas, would be live within a week or so. Reports would feed to the Biodiversity team for action and enforcement.

6. Definition of 'weeds' in herbicide free wards and street adoption areas

Varying definitions of what constitutes a weed, what is acceptable plant growth on paths and street, and would be the subject of a follow-up meeting in the very near future. JS highlighted the importance of a recent University of Sussex study that demonstrates that common ‘weeds’ are more beneficial to biodiversity than planted wildflower meadows (link here), and it was agreed by all that drawing on the More Than Weeds model might be a positive way forward.

7. Signage

Signage to indicate herbicide-free zones in the two herbicide-free trial wards as well as the street adoption areas (‘Bee-friendly street’) was discussed and will be the subject of a follow-up meeting in the very near future. JS and BG to liaise with RM over content of related information about the benefits of urban plants for biodiversity on websites, and signage, including ‘happy bee’ street logs and PFC logos/branding to be used on council vehicles. Links to PFC website also to be included on HRP information flyers and websites . The issue of signs to indicate where spraying has taken place was also discussed.

8. Update on who is responsible for recent spraying in Newnham and Abbey

AW explained that the recent herbicide spraying in Newnham and other wards was carried out by County council operatives and related to pavement resurfacing. In a previous email (dated 5 April 2022) we were told that

We are advised by County Council colleagues that their contractor has sprayed around 38 streets/roads ahead of a pre-planned pavement resurfacing programme (1 in Newnham, none in Arbury). The Highways Maintenance Manager was part of the team that created the Herbicide Free Trial and had made the resurfacing contractor aware of our Trial but unfortunately this was not effectively communicated to operatives carry out the work. The County Council as partners in the Trial will be participating in the working group that has been established to support the Trial and give it the best opportunity to be a success, they too are committed to the Trial and are participating to determine whether they can use the Trial outcomes across the region”.

During today’s meeting, AW told us that Barton close was not included in this list of roads to be sprayed by County Council so we still await clarity from County Council as to what has happened here (AW to follow up with them). AW explained that City and County council deeply regretted this error as the operations management knew that the area should not be sprayed. Somehow the message was not made forcefully enough to those on the ground. It was agreed that this demonstrated the importance of communications throughout the whole organisation and process. (see our recent Press release here for more information).

9. Frequency of future meetings and membership?

Agreed that the working group should meet frequently (up to once a month), with additional meetings as required. Agreed that this should be de-politicised especially before elections, so no councillors should be present until after local elections are over. Further details on membership of the group discussed under Point 3.

10. AOB.

JS asked about PPE (following similar questions asked at the Oct 2021, and Jan 2022 ECSC meetings). AW agreed that PPE would be worn by their operatives when they do perform spraying in areas outside the two trial areas this spring and autumn, in accordance with HSE guidance, so it would mean protective boots and clothing but not necessarily a face covering if outdoors.

Agreed that a joint press release in a few weeks time after actions have happened would be helpful.

AW mentioned idea of p-f honey, possibly in collaboration with Cofarm

Need for further discussion of Council owned allotments so that they too can go herbicide free.

Agreed actions:

  1. HRP Twitter account.

  2. Schools visit in relation to HRP.

  3. Operatives to be informed that no spraying must take place between 8.00-9.00 am and 3.00-4.00 pm, i.e., around school drop off / collection/ commute time.

  4. Working group to be formally set up and next meeting date to be scheduled.

  5. PFC and RM to draft public attitudes questionnaire.

  6. Spraying schedule to be launched online (update 22/4/22: this has now been launched -

  7. Reporting webpage to be set up within next week.

  8. Signage to be finalised with input from PFC on wording and logo/branding.

  9. Agreed that PPEs must all wear full PPE.

24 February 2022

PFC emailed Cllr Collis and other Cllrs and officers involved with the Herbicide Reduction plan. As of 12 March, we have yet to receive any response which is clearly frustrating.

Copy of email:

Dear Cllr Collis
Further to the ECSC meeting and the formal adoption of the Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP) and Herbicide-Free Streets (HFS) scheme, we are very keen to focus on the next steps. It concerns us greatly that there has been no mention since that meeting of the Working Group that you mentioned would be set up, and on which it was mentioned Pesticide-Free Cambridge would sit, nor of the precise wording of the Herbicide-Free Streets adoption scheme or indeed the overall communications strategy for the HRP. We were under the impression that we would contribute to these documents not least because it is imperative to get the communication right in order for the HRP and HFS to be a success.
Who, for instance, will sit on the Working Group and who is taking the lead? Will you involve opposition councillors, some of whom have been instrumental in getting these issues back on the agenda? What stage are we at with regard to a draft for the HRP and HFS webpage? Will the HFS communications also make it abundantly clear that the public is not to use other pesticides (e.g. ant powder) on the street (i.e. council land) as well as refraining from using herbicides? Will the facility to report such pesticide use on council land be on the webpage, or at least linked to it?
Related to this, will the wording of associated communications make it clear that pesticide use is a serious public health hazard as well as a disaster for biodiversity, in order to make the entwined environmental and human health impacts abundantly clear? We have been stressing this point, in keeping with the position of ecological public health, in our meetings with with and questions to the council over the last two years of our campaign, as well as in our our formal contributions to the council's Biodiversity Strategy document, and we are disappointed that there is still no acknowledgement of any of the well documented impacts of acute and chronic pesticide exposure in any of the council's documents. It is imperative, if the public are to understand the reasons behind the council's herbicide-free trials, that the health impacts are presented as being equally important a factor as the need to protect biodiversity. We have extensive information about the public health aspects of pesticide use on our Pesticide-Free Cambridge website. For example:
* ''Unsustainable chemical use and waste is a key obstacle to achieving the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and are a major contribution to air pollution far over and beyond that related to vehicular fumes * Both agricultural and non-agricultural pesticides have a highly negative health impact on a wide range of human illnesses including cancers, chronic neurological conditions such as ME/CFS, endocrine disruption and DNA alteration, as well as autism and learning difficulties in children * Recent high-profile court cases have set a legal precedent for demonstrating the negative health impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides and have helped to raise public awareness of the dangers of their widespread use in our built environments and green spaces''
We also have concerns about the council posting its herbicide spraying schedule. Will this happen in advance of spraying or at least at the time it happens? Any delay in this risks making the posting of such information a completely pointless gesture. Can you clarify what has been decided, and what the perceived obstacles are in providing this essential information to the public?
We are going to be talking to residents associations and friends groups over the next month to inform them of the HRP and HFS scheme. We want to be able to do so as informed participants in the successful rollout of a herbicide-free Cambridge and the beginnings of a truly pesticide-free City. But to do so we must be properly involved.

21 February 2022

PFC meeting with Cambridge City Council Biodiversity team to discuss progress on two-ward herbicide free trial and related Herbicide Reduction Plan. Discussion points included decisions made during the Environment and Community Scrutiny Meeting on 27/1/22 that have not yet materialised: particularly the council's commitment to set up a herbicide-free Working Group that would include Pesticide-Free Cambridge, and to incorporate the health dimension of pesticide use in its communications to the public.

31 January 2022

PFC, together with Lib Dem Cllrs Porrer and Cheney, and Green Cllr Copley, issued a Press release (see here), on the results of the Cambridge Council Environment and Community Scrutiny Meeting (27/02/22). See resulting media piece in the Cambridge Independent, 6/2/22:

The meeting resulted in the unanimous approval of the Herbicide Reduction Plan in its current format, the decision to go ahead with the two-ward herbicide-free trial in Arbury and Newnham, and 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 agreed in the Lib Dem/PFC herbicide-free Motion of July 2021. Disappointingly, Cllrs Porrer (Lib Dem) who moved the July Motion, and Copley’s (Green) proposed amendments to include a firm commitment to this effect in the HPR, ie to ending herbicide treatments this year 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.

For full details of our reactions to these outcomes, with comments also from Cllr Katie Porrer (Liberal Democrat, Market Ward), Cllr Cheney Payne (Liberal Democrat, Castle Ward) and Cllr Hannah Copley (Green,Abbey Ward), see here.

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

  • For Council documents relating to the meeting, see here.

24 January 2022

PFC meeting with Cllr Katie Porrer to discuss our shared response to recently published Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP) which is to be discussed at the Cambridge Council Environment and Community Scrutiny Meeting on 27 January 2022. PFC have submitted some Public questions (see our entry for 25 Jan above), but also contributed to Cllr Porrer and Cllr Payne's questions which will be discussed in the council meeting itself. See our separate entry below for our concerns about the HRP).

17 January 2022

PFC received link to City Council's new Herbicide Reduction Plan (HRP), in advance of its Environment and Community Scrutiny Meeting on 27 January 2022. This is largely in response to the motion in July 2021 that committed to a two-ward herbicide-free trial in Autumn 2021, (but later on moved back to Spring 2022), and to going completely herbicide-free by the end of 2022. THe biodiversity team ran a mini trial in Autumn 2021, and this document largely presents the findings thereof. The two wards that have been chosen for these trials are Newnham and Arbury, both representing 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. Whilst we welcome these developments, we still have some major concerns, some of which we have discussed Lib Dem Cllrs Porrer and Payne (see entry for 24 Jan) to be presented by them at the meeting on 27 Jan. We'll share the link to the minutes of the meeting with those questions (and hopefully answers) after the event, but in the meantime, we outline some of the initial concerns that we highlighted in advance of our separate meeting with Cllrs Porrer and Payne on 24 Jan.

  • 3.3 HRP 'habitat enhancement' but no mention of benefits to public health.

  • 3.4 'unwanted vegetation' described as a public health risk. No mention of public health risk of herbicides themselves.

  • 3.6 Hot foam etc... under 'use' lists 'grass growth around trees' however our understanding is that Biodiversity and Tree officers do not want any treatment of grass growth around trees except perhaps mulching. Any 'treatment' around trees is likely to harm them - glyphosate, steam, strimming included - and is also unnecessary. In fact in 3.8 trees are absent from the list of areas requiring treatment.

  • 3.6 Table 1. List fails to include mechanical weeding as an alternative to chemical treatment which is important as it is both distinct from manual and can be a very effective way of dealing with sizeable areas e.g. paving but may also have negative side-effects on the user due to vibration.

  • 3.10/3.11 of course we need detail on how Herbicide-Free Streets will work, how to volunteer, equipment, training, monitoring, feedback.

  • 4 (c) 'The EQIA has identified a potential negative impact relating to Age, Disability, Pregnancy and Maternity' but there is no mention of the severely negative impact of herbicide use on residents, especially those who are already vulnerable.

  • 4 (d), (f) what of the positive public health implications of going herbicide-free?

  • 6 (b) 'risk' and 'hazard' terms applied to weeds but not applied to herbicide use itself.

13 January 2022

PFC meeting with Cambridge Council Biodiversity team to discuss progress on two-ward herbicide-free trials (more details to follow).

8 January 2022

PFC meeting with Cllrs Alex Collis and Hilary Cox Condron. Alex Collis will send PFC the finalised city council pesticide report prior to the Environment & Community Strategy Committee meeting on 27th January 2022. It is at this meeting that the proposal for two specific herbicide-free wards will be voted on and the wards therefore finalised. It is still the city council’s intention to go completely herbicide-free as of January 1st 2023. Hilary Cox Condron, as a County councillor, stated that she will help promote the pesticide-free campaign to schools, especially in Arbury ward.

For earlier records see our separate blogs for 2021, and 2020 and previous years.

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