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Council restricts herbicides as part of response to Biodiversity Emergency

News release from 04/10/2019

CAMBRIDGE City Council is restricting the use of herbicides in its parks and open spaces as part of its ongoing ambition to achieve a measurable net gain in biodiversity for Cambridge.

This ambition was outlined in a Biodiversity Emergency motion adopted by the council earlier this year. The motion recognises the immediate global biodiversity emergency and the local impact this could have on communities and businesses.

It outlines a series of pledges for the next two years and beyond including:

  • Making the council estate, including its parks and opens spaces, more hospitable to a wide range of plants and animals;
  • Reviewing the council’s Nature Conservation Strategy to include measurable biodiversity net gain;
  • Working with institutions, schools, businesses and community groups to raise awareness and encourage wider biodiversity action across the city.

A significant first step has been to restrict the use of herbicides in all city-managed parks and open spaces from July 2019, due to their potential negative impact on human health and biodiversity.

The council will now only consider the use of specific herbicides in ‘special circumstances’, when viable, non-chemical alternatives have been exhausted or are not available – for instance in control of the invasive plant Japanese Knotweed.

Weed control without herbicides does present operational challenges in order to continue to maintain a cost effective standard which residents and visitors find acceptable.

The council will continue to develop and monitor an integrated weed control strategy. This will include mechanical removal, using alternative non-chemical treatments and designing out problem weed areas, for example by rationalising some park infrastructure or by creating longer grass areas, particularly under trees. It will also raise awareness to ensure people understand the need for changes to past management practices.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Open Spaces, said: “The council has made significant contributions to Cambridge’s biodiversity since the adoption of the 2006 Nature Conservation Strategy.

“This has seen the designation of 12 local nature reserves and numerous community projects including water course restoration, swift box schemes, wildlife-focused community gardens and large, new natural green spaces within new neighbourhoods.

“However, we recognise we need to do more and one of our next actions will be the publication of a Parks Biodiversity Toolkit to inspire and empower local residents, businesses and other property owners to do their bit for wildlife.”