Acres of green spaces in Brighton and Hove could be pesticide-free within three years as council parks bosses turn to technology to tackle weeds on their land.
They aim to switch from glyphosate – which is also known by the brand name Roundup and is believed to cause cancer – to an infrared zapper.
For years the organophosphorous herbicide has been sprayed in parks and on playing fields across Brighton and Hove as well as on roads, pavements and housing land.
It has been the subject of big payouts in America after a series of high-profile court cases brought against the maker Monsanto, which is now owned by the Bayer pharmaceutical conglomerate.
The switch locally comes more than three years after members of Brighton and Hove City Council unanimously backed a motion proposed by former Green councillor Louisa Greenbaum to phase out glyphosate.
And it follows a series of pledges before last month’s local elections by candidates who were targeted by the Brighton-based Pesticide Action Network UK.
The council will be balancing the phase out of glyphosate with its other duties such as weeding footpaths and pavements to keep them safe, particularly for older people and those with mobility problems.
Anne Pissaridou, the new chair of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said yesterday (Tuesday 25 June): “I am pleased to inform the committee that the council is actively working towards the reduction of the use of pesticides for weed control in the city.
“I am aware of the cross-party support and growing strength of feeling that residents would like the city to be pesticide free.
“Following advice from the Pesticide Action Network, officers are developing a three-year plan with a view to moving towards ending the use of pesticides.
“I was heartened to discover that the council has already started to reduce the amounts of glyphosate used in city parks, on housing land and public highways.
“However, having discussed this with the Pesticide Action Network and officers, we believe that we can accelerate the reduction in use.
“Officers will be auditing the use of pesticides by the council over the coming months and I have asked them to bring a report to committee in October with the results of this audit and a proposed policy and action plan to end the use of glyphosate within three years.
“In the meantime, no glyphosate will be used in city parks while the impact is monitored and alternative solutions will be trialled.
“On the public highway and housing land we will reduce weed spraying from two per year to one spray this year.
“We will be limiting the use of glyphosate to lower-footfall areas only and using a new technique which uses infrared technology to ensure the minimum amount of pesticide required is applied.
“This new technology promises to achieve up to 80 per cent reduction in the amount of glyphosate used.
“Overall, we should achieve in excess of 95 per cent reduction in the use of glyphosate by the council this year compared to last year.
“In future years we will be aiming to eliminate the use of glyphosate by the council and working with partners and residents to replicate this across the city.”