Council commits to phasing out use of harmful weedkiller after pressure from Greens and others

Green Party councillor, Rosie Baker has welcomed the changes to the council’s decision put forward by Executive Member for the Environment Paula Widdowson at a special council meeting today. The meeting followed the ‘call-in’ by Cllr Baker and four other councillors that resulted in a review of an earlier decision by Cllr Widdowson.

Cllr Baker said ‘I very much welcome the fact the council has listened to widespread concerns and has now committed to phasing out the use of glyphosate weedkiller and to working with expert organisations such as the Pesticides Action Network to introduce alternative methods of weed management. Reducing our use of chemical weedkillers is so important to protect our crucial pollinators. Whilst as Greens we would prefer to go further and faster, the commitments made this afternoon are a great step forwards, putting York alongside the 80 other councils who are already working to phase out glyphosate. Green councillors will be working with others to do everything we can to ensure York starts to deliver immediate reductions in the use of glyphosate over the coming summer season. We will work with the Pesticide Action Network and others to work on a realistic timescale for glyphosate to be phased out completely in York. I hope members of all parties and none will step up and work together on this and that residents will encourage their own councillors to offer their ward to be part of the trial to do fewer sprays this summer.’

At the meeting Cllr Baker said:

I am pleased to be a joint signatory to this call-in today, giving weight to the cross-party rejection of the decision to simply continue using glyphosate with no plans to reduce or phase it out.

The Greens proposed the CE, I seconded the Greens’ proposal of the Pollinator Strategy and I commend all the work Cllr Vassie and the CE committee have been doing on it since to try to make real change to council processes and not accept that council departments will simply do business as usual with the weeds/ with respect to weed management.

The trial of alternative methods mentioned in the paper has already proved to be a bit of a shambles and cannot really be used to prove anything one way or another. So it is really important that we get a commitment to working with experts on this issue such as the Pesticides Action Network, That we conduct further meaningful trials of the effectiveness of alternative approaches  – for managing weeds where needed and for supporting our pollinators and improving biodiversity – and to starting immediately to reduce the amount of glyphosate we use as a council.

it’s so important to reduce and then stop using chemical weedkillers as they seriously damage the pollinators and biodiversity on which we all depend for our food and health and well being.

We appreciate some people don’t like to see weeds growing but we have to find effective and creative ways to make sure our neighbourhoods appear looked after without it damaging the biodoversity irrevocably.  There is Potential for residents to positively work with the council on this to make our neighbourhoods more beauftiful, attractive etc through wildflower planting.

Finally, to emphasise Point E of call in: We are calling for the City of York Council to join the more than 80 other local authorities who have already made a stronger commitment to go pesticide-free.

This resulted in the council offering the following concessions:

  • Supporting the policy ambitions set out in the Pollinator Strategy, to reduce the impact of pesticides on pollinators and wildlife, to commit to phasing out the use of glyphosate, focusing on non highway areas first then developing a plan for highways. 

  • To start work immediately with partners, such as Defra, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and PAN (Pesticides Action Network), to further explore and evaluate the best alternative weed management approaches that would support the policy ambitions set out in the Pollinator Strategy offering Climate Change Scrutiny Committee the option to feed into this work.
  • Full and openly transparent trials over the coming summer will be offered to all wards to evaluate the impact of fewer glyphosate treatments. “Pilot” wards will have 1 less externally contracted weed spray and have their fences/lamp posts and other street furniture strimmed once by the Council’s frontline teams, instead of the normal single spray that is carried out by the Council’s teams. This will therefore also support the work to phase out the use of glyphosate by the council’s own public realm team. The changes for “pilot” wards will generally apply to the whole ward, whilst ward councillors will be able to clarify specific areas that are excluded from any sprays, such as already excluded areas of river edges, play areas, parks and existing wildflower community projects. Officers will ensure that these details are clearly identified before the season commences. Councillors from the wards undertaking the trial, will be encouraged to actively engage with the Executive Member to further support alternative weed treatment work options as recommended by the external partners, for example through engaging parish councils and volunteers on other land. Officers will be instructed to write to all councillors offering the opportunity to opt in to the trial on Council land and outlining further details of the proposal; this will be reported to the Executive Member at a decision session in order to formalise the trial.  

  • The procurement process for the new external contract will clarify that the council is on a journey to phase out glyphosate; and that as well as the reduced spraying in the “pilot” wards the council will be considering further trials of alternative approaches as recommended by external partners in future years and therefore the contract may change or be terminated.
  • The results of all the trials will be reported to the Executive Member in Jan 2023, together with an update on the work with partners (PAN, Defra and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust), offering Climate Change Scrutiny Committee the option to consider pre decision scrutiny as part of the ongoing work to phase out the use of glyphosate.

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