Fenland District Council set to discuss motion calling for re-introduction of weedkilling on our streets
Fenland councillors are set to discuss the thorny issue of weeds at a meeting on Monday (2).
A motion is due to be discussed at the full meeting of Fenland District Council, which, if passed, will see the local authority writing to Cambridgeshire County Council calling for the re-introduction of cyclical spraying.
Councillor Tim Taylor, who represents March West and Benwick, has submitted the wordy motion in the hope his fellow members will back it.
In it, he says: “In April 2023, with neither consultation nor (so far as we are aware) notice, Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) decided to cease all cyclical spraying to suppress weeds on our pavements, roads, and in our gullies.
“On September 8 a letter was sent by Frank Jordan (executive director for place and sustainability at CCC) to all councils in the county, recognising ‘that the county council should have engaged with its partners in district and parish councils more effectively at the time when this policy change was being considered, and then when it was implemented, and that is something we wish to improve upon’ and advising that CCC is ‘reviewing the impact of the change in both rural and urban areas’ and that CCC ‘will be considering changes to [their] approach when [they] have the assessment results and presenting this to members’ of CCC.”
He goes on to point out many residents have complained about the state of the roads and footpaths as a result of the new policy, and adds: “If the policy isn’t reversed by CCC, this will only become worse with time.”
The motion goes on to say: “Council notes with concern the reports in September after periods of intense rain in Manea, March and Whittlesey that road surface water did not drain as quickly as would otherwise have been possible because drains and gullies were blocked or impeded by weed and grass growth which was a direct result of the change of policy stopping cyclical spraying, creating a safety hazard for road users and increasing flood risk in adjacent properties.”
Coun Taylor argues that the CCC’s reason for introducing the policy was to reduce the use of glyphosate, the most commonly used chemical in weedkillers because they argued it was “unsafe”.
However, he wants Fenland councillors to recognise that glyphosate as a weed suppressant is approved in the UK and by the European Union, and that a recent study showed that glyphosate is less toxic to humans than vinegar or table salt.
But Coun Taylor fails to recognise in his motion the impact glyphosate has on bees, which was one of the reasons why CCC took its decision, as it said at the time the policy was introduced that it wanted to promote biodiversity.
He goes on to point out that there has been an increase in roadside ragwort, which is poisonous to ruminants – especially horses – and that the county’s highways authority has a statutory duty to remove and prevent ragwort.
Coun Taylor concludes his motion saying: “Council therefore agrees to respond to CCC advising them of the contents of this motion and our desire to see cyclical spraying recommenced to suppress weeds on our roads, pavements and in our gullies.”
Earlier in the summer Manea councillor Charlie Marks launched a public petition calling on CCC to re-introduce its weed spraying regimen.
It is still available to sign on the county council’s website under its epetition heading and people have until October 18 to add their name. So far 1,640 people have signed – which is just over half the number needed if it is to be discussed by Cambridgeshire’s full council.