It’s time to grasp the nettle as weeds overrun our city

Posted On 24 Aug 2021 at 3:27 pm

The story in the Sunday Times

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.

Weeds near London Road railway station in Brighton

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.

  1. Jonathan Simons Reply

    Conveniently forgetting that it was your administration and party, when you were part of it, that made the decision so you can’t really wash your hands of it like this. And didn’t you pledge at the last election to do it?

  2. Nathan Adler Reply

    Another classic idea, (along with the OSR cycle lane), from Cllr Pissadoru. Some pavements are a disgrace and once again Brighton and Hove City Council is the laughing stock of the UK. No more apologies the council need to get on top of it.

  3. Jean Reply

    Green, Labour and Tory Councillors signed a pledge as part of a campaign by the Pesticide Action Network. They promised to phase out herbicides containing glyphosate, but were supposed to find genuine alternatives to what many suspect is a cancer-causing chemical. The first bit was easy, but typical of our Councillors, they haven’t followed through.

  4. Chris Reply

    It’s not just pavements either, central reservations and grass verges are so overgrown it must be difficult to see round some of them when emerging from a junction. The speed camera in Coldean Lane is barely visible for the bushes around it and the one in the Lewes Road is being engulfed.

  5. Malcolm Reply

    I love cllr Lloyd’s childlike worldview. Perhaps he and his Green colleagues could spend their weekends manually removing some weeds. I wouldn’t mind chipping in myself. . . Subject to receiving a council tax refund.

    • Ben Doyle Reply

      Lol yet us residents are paying a high tax and high permits for what a town full of weed

  6. June Churchill Reply

    My husband posted this somewhere else, it make sense
    Perhaps someone could give legal guidance on the following!
    Are the pavements, footways and public spaces the property of the government, East Sussex County Council or Brighton and Hove City Council or do they belong to the owners of the properties adjacent to these areas? If it happens to be Brighton and Hove City Council then the unsightly weeds causing slip and trip hazards growing in these areas are the property of the said authority. As I am a Health and Safety Consultant I am fully aware that it is the responsibility of an owner of such areas to not only carry out their common law duty of protecting everyone from harm but to have a written Risk Assessment identifying hazards and the degree of risks and the production of safe working procedures to mitigate such hazards and risks.
    If so a demand to the council should make this Risk Assessment public. If one is not forthcoming to show why the situation to protect those that required hospital treatment after tripping on weeds was not in place should a prosecution be undertaken?
    It perhaps means that the weeds are the property of the council and as they have admitted that they do not have enough staff to deal with the problem we could help them.
    Perhaps if we gathered the weeds from outside our houses and public areas and left them in bags outside the council offices it would be easier for them to load them onto vehicles for disposal at their recycling sites where garden waste is turned into compost and fertiliser.
    After all they are encouraging us to do our bit for the city so this is what we could be doing!
    Of course our actions could be classed as guerilla gardening so leave us open to civil charges of charges of trespass if these areas are not ours!
    Comments welcome!

  7. Jon Reply

    Why don’t people clear weeds in front of their houses instead of taking pictures of them or writing columns in the local paper.
    It takes 5 minutes . The Tories ran their Clean for the Queen campaign claiming it was the patriotic thing to do. We have regular volunteer beach-cleans
    Here’s a Labour councillor who seems to want to live in a Nanny State which will result in the council employing agency workers on zero-hour contacts and Minimum wage to clean his street.

    • mart Burt Reply

      I have a dog but I don’t bark myself when someone taps on the door.
      I buy bus and train tickets, yet I don’t drive have to drive them.
      I order stuff for delivery but I don’t have to collect it.

      I’m sure people do keep their own area tidy but we pay council taxes for people to do such works as this.
      Who the council employ is entirely up to them. You do know that ‘agency workers’ work for an agency. What arrangements those ‘agency workers’ have is between the worker and the agency and is no business of yours or mine in the whole scheme of things.

  8. Simon F Reply

    Something has gone seriously wrong in our Environment Transport and Sustainability committee. It’s a bit like telling little children that if they eat up all their vegetables then they can have some sweets afterwards. All the kids hear is that they can have sweets. The kids in this scenario are replaced by Cllrs Lloyd and Heley, and their stooge civil servants who have been told that we will abolish the use of herbicides if an alternative can be found. What these cretins choose to hear is just the bit about abolishing herbicides. The difficult bit about organising an alternative is forgotten about. Later they try to claim that the weeds are actually stopping global warming or some such asinine nonsense.

  9. Billy Short Reply

    The common theme with this council is they don’t seem capable of anticipating the consequences of their actions. The ideology and dogma don’t seem to allow for any complex or nuanced situation which needs a longer term solution.

    As a result, no policy is thought through. And in this case it’s like they’ve watched two David Attenborough programs, and decided that pesticides must go because they come up on the eco-warrior wish list.

    In their minds it’s about ‘sustainability’ – when it’s clearly not.

    As an allotment holder who attempts to be organic I too am totally against the use of pesticides, but you can’t then just let things go. If I don’t weed manually then nature takes over and, far from encouraging wildlife, I lose all my vegetables to snails and then I don’t eat.
    Rewilding our streets – as with my allotment or any garden – is not sustainable. It’s a short term failure to act that results in longer term consequences.

    So this is quite simple: If you take one thing away, then you have to replace it with another. If we can’t spray weeds with chemicals, that’s just fine, but we then need more street cleaners to weed and scrape the gullies before the drains get blocked. Using a strimmer is not the green answer either.

    Instead, we have the most stupid fake green argument – that ‘weeds are nice’, and you can almost hear our juvenile councillors with hands over their ears going “not listening, not listening…”

  10. Natalie Downes Reply

    So right, Nathan that women Cllr Pissadoru caused a lot of trouble with her making changes… no thought to residents and bad planning, she made these decisions but without an alternative. Can’t believe Labour has accepted her back after she was suspended for antisemitism …totally shocking.

  11. CK Reply

    We need to protect our beautiful city. The nature. The sea. It’s why so many of us folk sold out flats in polluted London and bought beautiful houses by the healing sea on the best city in the UK.

  12. chris Reply

    The long and short of it is that glyphosphate weedkiller is very effective and saves a lot of money. There is no alternative chemical that works as well and has no negative effect. So that leaves manual intervention such as weeding or burning. This needs people, and this costs more. So councillors, spend more. If this means reducing other budgets then do so. Allowing the weeds to grow will only result in more damage and more cost in the long term. And that is before the lawsuits begin from people who have suffered injury due to the weeds.

  13. Jim Reply

    If I trip over a weed, or someone crashes into my car because they can’t see at a junction, litigation will follow to the council. This is to prove a point as clearly the only thing the greens understand is when they are faced with court action.

    This nonsense will damage the gutters (more cost to us tax payers) so when the rain comes at the end of next month, expect to see flash flooding in Hove and low areas of Brighton.

    I genuinely feel sorry for the people at the bottom, city clean. who have to deal with incompetent decisions from the councillors. They take the flack for poor leadership and underfunding. From over grown weeds due to this nonsense ban through to the beach being covered in litter because the funding isn’t there to empty the bins efficiently.

    I might out out with some weedkiller later, my road is like loving in some weird zombie movie.

    What do we get as a response from the council, blaming someone else for the consequences of bad ideas or some dribble about it being good for insects. They need to make a law for councillors to be held account for dangerous desicions.

    Greens = shambles

    Anyone reading who’s annoyed about this, either Spray the weeds yourself or rip them up and dump them in front of Hove Town Hall, may get the point across.

  14. James Goddard Reply

    Maybe they can sort out the garden recycling bin fiasco.
    Why is there a two year waiting list for a bin that we pay for?

  15. Robbo Reply

    Can we get rid of the green weeds please! They are also growing in our street drains!

  16. Jason Reply

    The Madeira Drive arches are left to fall down. Nothing was done to preserve the West pier. Roads and pavements are breaking up due to a lack of maintenance, and all we get are stupid vanity projects such as unwanted cycle lanes, the doughnut-on-a-stick (the eyesore 360) and all those propellers on sticks off-shore that will be abandoned as a danger to shipping for centuries to come when they reach the end of their useful life in a couple of decades.

    I always believed a council’s primary duty was to maintain the town (yes, I know – it’s called a “city” now) in a livable condition and to preserve it’s ancient heritage.

    Silly me. All they really do is cut services while lining their own pockets.

    Councillor Atkinson needs to look round his own area at overgrown turning areas and impassable pavements where the hedgerows grow right across the footpath and into the road.

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