You may have seen the BBC news report on the problem of pavement weeds throughout Brighton, Hove and Portslade.
The issue has also been covered by a number of national and local newspapers and websites, with jibes about rewilding the streets and the war of the weeds.
Some reports mentioned a petition. More than 200 people put their name to one on the Brighton and Hove City Council website a year ago. Since then, the situation has worsened.
The whole story has its roots in a decision taken by the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee in 2019.
I was a member of this committee until May of that year and the agreed position had been to reduce herbicide use to once a year while actively looking for an alternative.
This approach had also been adopted by a number of local councils up and down the country.
Unfortunately, this position was promptly overturned by members of the newly elected committee – and then, from November 2019, the use of herbicide was banned completely.
The results are now plain to see: a landscape that, in some areas, resembles a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled film set – or a scene from Day of the Triffids.
While I totally understand and support the desire to find alternatives to herbicides, it was reckless in the extreme to adopt a “no use” policy with nothing in its place.
Green councillor Jamie Lloyd spoke about manual removal – or pulling out weeds by hand – in the TV news report.
And the Cityclean teams do a sterling job but they are fighting an overwhelming and losing battle with weeds growing back within weeks of their removal.
These weeds and pavement grass are a trip hazard – and not just to elderly people. I know of a local child who had a really nasty fall after tripping over an enormous clump.
They make pavements more slippery when wet and they pose a threat to dogs who get barley grass stuck in their paws.
There is also the long-term damage that these weeds will do the very fabric of our pavements.
Lastly, it is simply laughable for the council to say that these weeds are good for insects and bees – but most of them are not attractive to these types of creatures.
Besides, there are much better and more effective ways to attract and support our insect wildlife than letting weeds run riot all across the city.
Peter Atkinson is an independent councillor and represents North Portslade on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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