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2022-23: PFC / Local Authority meetings & correspondence

Updated: Jan 20


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.





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)


Present:

PFC (JS and BG)

CNN representative


Background:

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


Present:

  • 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


Present:

  • 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


Present:

  • 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


Present:

  • PFC (JS & BG)

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


Apologies:

  • 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 https://www.pesticidefreecambridge.org/.../record-of-our...)

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 https://services.hse.gov.uk/concernform/

More information on reporting pesticide incidents: https://www.hse.gov.uk/.../enforc.../reporting-incidents.htm





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 - https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/weed-spraying-schedule)

  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: https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/herbicide-free-trials-to-begin-in-two-cambridge-wards-and-9238734/)


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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