Council Accused of Not Taking Herbicide Danger Seriously

The Cambridge councillor leading the campaign against herbicide use in public places has expressed her outrage today at the city council ignoring the strategy she successfully argued for - to phase it out – after finding some of the evidence right on her own doorstep!

Cllr Katie Porrer, Lib Dem Councillor in Market Ward, successfully persuaded Cambridge City Council last July1 to move to a herbicide ban based both on widespread safety concerns and on the harm to biodiversity. The council agreed a detailed strategy to implement this in January2.One part of the strategy was an initial trial ban in two areas of the city, subsequently agreed as Newnham and Arbury. As reported in the press earlier this month, this already appears to have been overlooked, as evidence of recent spraying was found in Newnham.

Another part of the strategy enabled residents elsewhere in the city to apply to become one of 12 herbicide-free streets – so-called ‘Happy Bee Streets’. Although applications were made, there has been no announcement of which streets these will be and spraying appears to be continuing regardless.

A third part of the motion required the council to communicate where and when spraying would take place in the rest of the city, so that residents could in the short term take necessary precautions with their children, pets and items left on doorsteps such as milk bottles. These chemicals are damaging to health.

But this morning, 25th April, Cllr Porrer opened her own curtains in her street near Cambridge's Grafton Centre to find a council worker spraying her front doorstep and the pavement directly outside her house and continuing the process along the whole street – with no advance notification of any kind.

Cllr Porrer said:

“I was making breakfast for my child at around 8am and spotted someone outside my window with a backpack and a sprayer. I rushed outside, but by the time I’d got to the front door, my house had already been sprayed.

“I was angry and upset, both as a ward councillor and as a local resident. I moved the original motion to ban herbicides on our roads and pavements and verges last year and one of the key parts was to tell residents where and when herbicides would be sprayed until use could be permanently discontinued across the city after the trials.

“I’d been assured that this year’s round of spraying wouldn’t start in the non-trial wards until a list of dates and areas were made public. There’s nothing on the council website that I can find, and as ward councillor I’d have expected to be notified in any case so I can share with residents. I’ve been told nothing.

“This is absolutely crucial as without this information residents can’t take precautions to avoid treated areas, so children and pets may touch the chemicals or worse. People can unwittingly bring the chemicals inside their home with milk bottles or packages left on sprayed doorsteps, as treated areas aren’t always obvious, yet remain toxic for days.

“The whole catalogue of mishaps with this new policy, compounded now by the continuation of spraying without notifying people in the city at large, makes it look as if the council just isn’t treating this whole matter seriously. Casual lip service just isn’t good enough for this really important issue. Words are easy, but it’s the action that counts and no-one seems to be in charge. I call on the City Council to cease herbicide treatments until a list of proposed dates and times is made public.”

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