Council trials glyphosate-free area in Homerton

Hackney Council is trialling a glyphosate-free area to promote biodiversity, increase green infrastructure, and see if abandoning the use of the herbicide means it can continue high standards of street maintenance. 

The trial, which encompasses streets, estates and green spaces in the Daubeney area of Homerton, began earlier in the summer. It is hoped that the trial will demonstrate the effect of allowing these areas to grow naturally, so that decisions can be made about the future use of herbicides and other methods of removing weeds.

The trial comes in addition to a number of measures the Council is carrying out to minimise glyphosate use, which have so far seen the amount used on its streets reduced by 50% since May 2018. 

These measures include: removing weeds in town centres by hand instead of chemically, stopping glyphosate spraying in more than 100km of high streets; reducing the number of sprays per season from four to three; and changing the way it’s applied - it’s now sprayed by operatives with knapsacks, rather than from vehicles.

Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm
The use of herbicides has a significant impact on the environment by removing plants that are an important food source for a wide variety of native insects. We not only face a climate emergency, we also face the related emergency of collapsing biodiversity that is increasingly referred to as the ‘sixth mass extinction’. By radically reducing the spraying of herbicides, Hackney can increasingly create the conditions in which insects thrive.

That’s why, since May 2018, we’ve reduced the amount of glyphosate we spray on our streets by 50% through reducing the number of sprays from four to three per season, preventing spraying on more than 100km of pavements on high streets, and removing spraying altogether from Hackney’s Town centres, removing weeds by hand instead.

In April 2019, we pledged to go even further in our programme of glyphosate removal by developing a ‘no spray’ pilot area, covering streets, estates, and green spaces, to provide a sense of the challenges and benefits associated with complete removal of glyphosate spraying. 

We believe the new ‘no-spray’ pilot - located in the ‘10x Greener’ area around Daubeney Road - will provide important insights to enable us to expand further glyphosate removal across the borough. We also believe this trial is unique in the U.K. Other local authorities have replaced glyphosate with biodegradable alternatives, but this still removes plants that support insect populations, raising questions about the value of such spraying.  

However, we also know that our residents expect high standards of maintenance and the trial will help us judge how we can best reduce our use of herbicides while also ensuring pavements remain free of obstructions for people with sight or mobility issues. That’s why I’d urge residents in the area to get in touch with the Council to let us know what they think.
Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm
Hackney is to be commended for taking this bold step to stop the spraying of herbicides and allow nature to flourish across the Borough. Reducing exposure to potentially harmful pesticides can only benefit the citizens and biodiversity of Hackney. This really is a model for other councils across the UK to follow if they are serious about reducing and ending the use of herbicides and restoring and improving urban biodiversity that will benefit this and future generations. Bravo Hackney.
Nick Mole, Policy Officer, Pesticide Action Network
This visionary decision to stop spraying herbicide in Homerton will make our streets greener and better for residents and wildlife alike. It means we can add more colour to the E5 neighbourhood - planting around pavement trees and seeding wildflowers in small spots of earth.

It is tremendously exciting to see the diversity of plant life now growing wild in the spray free area. Where possible we need to embrace nature not attack it. We can start by just letting the plants grow.
Gerry Tissier, Chair of Daubeney Fields Forever

The trial encompasses 20 streets and four estates managed by Hackney Council in the Daubeney area, and Daubeney Fields park.