Calls for council to stop using 'toxic' pesticides

Cllr Susan Dowling is calling on Breckland to phase out the use of pesticides on council-owned land

Councillor Susan Dowling is calling on Breckland District Council to phase out the use of all pesticides and weed killers on council-owned land, due to their environmental impact. - Credit: Breckland Council/Susan Dowling

A councillor is calling on her district authority to phase out the use of all pesticides and weed killers on council-owned land, due to their environmental impact.

Labour councillor Susan Dowling, who represents Thetford Priory ward, will propose the motion at this week’s Breckland full council meeting on Thursday July 8, seconded by independent councillor for Swanton Morley, Roger Atterwill.

In the written motion, she notes that the use of pesticides such as glyphosate in the UK has increased by 60pc in real terms since 1990, and that Italy and Portugal have both banned the use of glyphosate, while France is working towards doing so.

Grass affected by pesticide in Breckland

The weed-killer leaves "a huge brown patch" said councillor Susan Dowling. - Credit: Susan Dowling

Ms Dowling, who played an instrumental role in Breckland declaring a climate emergency, said she had been concerned about the chemicals' use for some time, as they leave "a huge brown patch" where they are sprayed.

“It’s not good for the environment, glyphosate particularly - it is toxic to all plants, unless genetically modified to resist it," said Ms Dowling.


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The councillor referred to research from Friends of the Earth, which points to glyphosate as having an effect on the human hormone system, and the chemical has been linked to birth defects and cancer. 

Pesticide affecting grass in Breckland

“I just feel at a time when weed killers and pesticides are reducing biodiversity so much, particularly impacting on insects and birds and so on, that we really shouldn’t be using it at all,” she added. - Credit: Susan Dowling

“I just feel at a time when weed killers and pesticides are reducing biodiversity so much, particularly impacting on insects and birds and so on, that we really shouldn’t be using it at all,” she added.

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Lewes Council and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham both use biodegradable foam or hot steam treatments on weeds, her motion notes. 

“I think we should definitely try other things. I quite understand that certainly there are certain invasive species that we need to get rid of, like Japanese knotweed, but there are ways of doing that in a much safer way, [such as] injecting directly into the stems [rather than spraying the plant].”

Pesticides used on grass in Breckland

Councillor Dowling's motion notes that Lewes Council and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham both use biodegradable foam or hot steam treatments on weeds, rather than spray pesticides. - Credit: Susan Dowling

An exception for the use of spray could however be made for Giant Hogweed “where it’s not safe to be dug out or safely removed by other means and then cordon off the surrounding area,” her motion recommends. 

Gordon Bambridge, Breckland Councils executive member for environmental services and public protecti

Breckland’s executive member for the environment Gordon Bambridge said he wanted to hear the motion in situ before commenting. - Credit: Archant

Approached for comment, Breckland’s executive member for the environment Gordon Bambridge said he wanted to hear the motion in situ before commenting.

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