Brighton City Council plans to tackle the weed problem

The council is looking at ways to keep the streets weed-free.

And they have asked officials to produce a report “with options for alternative weed removal methods that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.”

The decision was taken at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council, where members again criticized the state of the area’s overgrown pavements, verges and gutters.

Conservative councilor Robert Nemeth proposed a motion to solve the problem when the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee met at Brighton Town Hall. And Labor councilors gave their support.

Weeds became a problem after the council stopped using glyphosate herbicide – known commercially as Roundup – over fears it could cause cancer.

Several councilors pledged to ban the organophosphorus herbicide ahead of the May 2019 local elections.

In June 2019, Councilor Anne Pissaridou, who then chaired the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, briefed fellow Councilors on steps being taken to phase out the herbicide glyphosate.

She said: “We will only limit the use of glyphosate to areas with lower footfall and will use a new technology that uses infrared technology to ensure the minimum required amount of pesticide is applied.”

In November 2019, the committee supported a “plan to reduce pesticides” and heard that community workers were manually removing weeds because no alternative had proven effective. A test with hot foam showed that the plant roots were not killed.

This year, dog owners have spoken out and shared details of how their pets were injured when barley grass seeds were embedded in their paws and ears.

Councilor Nemeth said: “The debate has shifted somewhat over time as the general public sees the policy as deliberately allowing crops to grow for perhaps ideological reasons under the banner of ‘restoration’ rather than addressing the alleged harm of herbicides.

“Many do not see the policy as environmentally friendly. Although many more flowers are growing, no analysis has been conducted to find out whether not spraying is actually more environmentally friendly than spraying once a year.

“Finally, the current method of weeding by hand or machine is inherently inefficient and diverts hundreds of thousands of pounds from genuine environmental initiatives.

“Not to mention the environmental damage caused by having to replace asphalt and concrete pavements on a much larger scale.”

Councilor Nemeth, a beekeeper, said he has not used any herbicides in his garden or in any of the community projects he is involved in.

Labor Councilor Nancy Platts said: “I’m really aware that this policy was bought into my oversight when I became Chair of the Council because we all signed up as a Labor group to eliminate the use of pesticides – and that’s something I’m still supporting.

“It was in the expectation that there were viable alternatives that could be brought up.

“I worry that now we’re coming up to three years later (and) we’ve seen alternatives that don’t seem viable.”

She said the Labor group had allocated funds to find alternatives to glyphosate and that the official report should explain what had happened to that money.

One of the council’s most senior officials, Donna Chisholm, the executive director for environment, economy and culture, blamed a number of issues for the weed problem.

She said: “There is a well-known and well-documented national crisis in terms of labor availability, particularly in seasonal roles that have been recruited in relation to weeding.

There was also a problem accessing devices from Europe for a variety of reasons. There was a long lead time for the new equipment we were looking for to control the weeds.”

She said the committee will receive a draft plan early next year explaining how the council will tackle street weeds.

Green Councilor Jamie Lloyd blamed Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union – and said he had explained on national radio why the weed problem was linked to the “end of free movement”.

He said: “We have a labor crisis that is affecting all levels of community service and we are not the only ones suffering from this problem. There are councils all over the country.

“It’s places like farms that are struggling with the lack of seasonal workers, which is a real problem. There is real pressure on Council officials to fill vacancies that cannot be filled.

“We encourage or facilitate communities who can get involved in weed control if they want to. We’re not saying anyone should.”

He said glyphosate is dangerous to pets and animals and causes cancer in humans and must not allow it to come back. Brighton City Council plans to tackle the weed problem

Fry Electronics Team

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