Shaftesbury leads way in banning toxic weedkiller from public spaces
As EU member states debate whether to renew licences for the continued used of controversial herbicide Glyphosate, one North Dorset town has already taken the lead and implemented a ban throughout its public spaces.
Shaftesbury is only the second town in the UK to withdraw Glyphosate and, says leading campaigner Brigit Strawbridge of the town's Bee Friendly group, "It's wonderful to see children playing in the park and dog walkers enjoying our public spaces knowing that those green areas are no longer treated with herbicide."
Parents and dog walkers in Shaftesbury had voiced their concerns to the town council and in February this year, Shaftesbury Town Council voted for a complete ban on the use of Glyphosate on their land in sensitive areas for wildlife, where children play, where dogs are walked and in important locations for tourists.
Over the border in Somerset, Glastonbury voted last year to ban Glyphosate following the World Health Organisation's finding that it is a 'probable' human carcinogen as well as being harmful to honey bees and two species of earthworms.
Brigit said: "Glyphosate's status has changed from a 'possible' to a 'probable' human carcinogen and what many may not realise is that it is when Glyphosate is combined with other compounds in weedkillers that it becomes highly toxic."
Apart from its effect on people it is having a devastating effect on wildlife including our bee population. Overuse of weed killer on our open spaces is unnecessarily destroying nectar and pollen resources that bees rely upon to get through their life cycle killing many more weeds and wildflowers on the margins than is necessary.
"We are seeing a decline in invertebrates and our songbirds where we have destroyed plants which go to seed and provide this link in the food chain.
"When we went to the town council with our concerns we were only expecting them to ban Glyphosate in certain areas but we are delighted they have had the courage to decide to ban its use everywhere within 12 months.
"As well as using alternatives methods such as strimming and hand weeding, the town council is still exploring other methods including the use of a hot foam, herbicide-free form of weed control.Brigit said:
"It is obviously quicker, and cheaper, to spray than to hand weed and it would be wonderful if Shaftesbury residents and businesses could perhaps take care of the area outside their own home or premises – a lot of townspeople have started to do this.
"I take care of the Queen Mother's garden at Castle Hill which I know is much appreciated by dog walkers and elderly visitors and it was wonderful to see plants such as dandelions being allowed to flower this year before being strimmed on Park Walk.
"It's wonderful to see the town council embracing this and making Shaftesbury a safer and healthier place for people and wildlife alike."
Shaftesbury town councillor Karen Tippins said: "The town council voted on a resolution on 23rd February 2016 to ban the use of a chemical called Glyphosate contained in weedkiller used by Shaftesbury Town Council ground staff for weed management around the town.
"The vote by the council was a complete ban on the use of Glyphosates in sensitive areas such as those rich in wildlife, play areas and dog walking and high profile tourist areas, with the intention of a complete town-wide ban within 12 months.
"This is a matter of great importance to all of us who care about our health, the health of children, our pets and the wildflowers, wildlife and, of course, the bees. This is a significant step we have undertaken as a council to move Shaftesbury towards becoming a Bee-Friendly town."