Council takes a lead with pledge to cut back on chemical weed killers

Saffron Walden Town Hall, home of the town council. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Saffron Walden Town Hall, home of the town council. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

Saffron Walden Town Council has agreed to cut back on its use of chemical weed killers in response to concerns for the environment.

At a meeting of the council's assets and services committee on May 28, councillors agreed to explore organic and alternative weed control methods, and to only use glyphosate chemicals as a "last resort".

Glyphosate, a herbicide, has attracted controversy because of studies which have suggested its harmful effects on both humans and wildlife.

At the meeting, councillors were told that staff working on behalf of the authority used only a "very small amount" of herbicide around the base of trees and benches "for practical reasons".

The council was also told that staff had been looking at alternatives to glyphosate, including vinegar or acetic acid.

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Speaking at the meeting, member of the public Karmel Stannard told councillors: "I think we need to get away from the attitude that weeds are messy because each of the weeds, like dandelions, are essential to pollinators.

"A lot of other wild flowers that are considered weeds are also essential to pollinators. I think the council could take a lead in looking at all these wild plants as being useful not something to be considered as untidy."

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Councillor Richard Freeman said: "I think the thing that stresses me about the current factors, and I accept everything that has been said about potential toxicity, is these dead areas around trees which look pretty sad and strange and Councillor [Barbara] Light has pointed out the dead areas around fields as equally strange and bizarre.

"That alone would be a reason for not doing it [using herbicide], certainly not on amenity areas like the common because nothing looks stranger than a tree with a large brown area around its roots and I certainly accept that the material would go into the tree and wouldn't do it any good at all, and I accept the impact on pollinators.

"I am very happy to proscribe as far as possible the use of herbicides and insecticides. I accept that there are operation aspects to this and I think it is for the operations manager to come to the optimal solution there but I would be happy to use hardly any at all."

Councillors also agreed that some areas of public land would be allowed to grow longer to encourage wildlife.

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