- Meeting of Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 10th November, 2022 7.30 pm (Item 58.)
The Chair invited Emma Pavans de Ceccatty of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) to give an overview of their work, highlighting the harms caused by the use of pesticides. The following points were raised:
· PAN is the only UK charity whose focus is solely on tackling the problems caused by pesticides and promoting safe and sustainable alternatives in agriculture, urban areas, homes and gardens.
· The charity works with and puts pressure on governments, regulators, policy makers, industry and retailers to reduce the impacts of harmful pesticides to both human health and the environment.
· PAN’s work includes campaigning for change in policy and practices at home and overseas, co-ordinating projects which help smallholder farming communities escape ill-health and poverty caused by pesticides, and contributing our wealth of scientific and technical expertise to the work of other organisations who share our aims.
· PAN strives to eliminate hazardous pesticides, reduce dependence on pesticides and promotes ecologically sound, and socially just, alternatives to chemical pest control
· PAN publishes independent information on pesticide use and impacts for governments and decision makers, researchers, media, concerned citizens and other interested groups.
· The charity also undertakes research to promote better understanding of the cause and effects of pesticide problems.
· In addition to the above PAN undertakes projects to demonstrate that growing food and textiles, and managing amenities, is possible without the use of hazardous pesticides.
· The charity promotes effective and progressive policies to eliminate pesticide hazards, representing concerns of users, consumers and exposed communities nationally and internationally.
· Meeting was reminded of the impact of pesticides use on biodiversity, habitat loss and its harm on insects like bees and butterfly which is crucial for the environment.
· Also its impact on the council’s personnel health was noted despite the use of PPE and that the spraying of pesticides in open spaces without adequate signage being displayed could be detrimental to the health and well being of residents who use those open spaces for leisure.
· PAN is concerned with pet poisoning as a result of pavement being sprayed in an attempt to remove wild vegetation, it was suggested that this was often unnecessary, especially as not all plant species causes damage to pavements.
· PAN acknowledges Islington’s efforts in striving to be pesticide free over the last 10 years but noted that more could be done despite financial constraints.
· Members were reminded that local authorities have a role in protecting the natural environment, and although PAN are not advocating for Council’s to allow wild vegetation to thrive, it is important for the council to recognise that damage to pavements is caused by big trees like sycamore. The organisation wanted to increase awareness that not all plant species are harmful as these vegetation/plants can be a habitat for insects such as bees.
· PAN acknowledges Islington’s investment in staff training, promoting green industry in the borough and its engagement with residents
· PAN has a 3 year template and tool kit guide which it is prepared to share with Council officers.
· The meeting was advised that plants capture carbon and can help cool down pavements, that Council’s should be actually designing its streets in a more biodiverse way, that wild plants capture water thus help reduce flooding.
· It was suggested that councils should think more strategically, as certain areas in the borough will be more suited to certain type of vegetation for example where there is high footfall, the council may not necessarily need to remove vegetation.
· Another suggestion for neighbouring councils to share resources especially mechanical equipment so as to avoid waste and duplication was noted.
· On the suggestion that Hackney Council uses less pesticides, meeting was advised that Hackney is not pesticide free, that its approach is different in that it focusses on hand weeding in general, and in areas of high footfall they use less equipment and wild plants are encouraged on their estates.
· PAN can share examples of case studies and costing with committee if interested.
· The Corporate Director of Environment informed the meeting that although Islington was not pesticide free, pesticide was not used in parks, and was used in a limited and targeted way. The meeting was also advised that there is technology available which targets individual plants, and as the result, there had been a significant reduction in pesticide use over the last three years.
· The Corporate Director also acknowledged a nervousness about genuine alternatives that would work borough-wide, however the Council is prepared to explore this issue further and discuss this with PAN.
· On the question on whether schools are pesticide free, the Corporate Director stated that he would need to check on this and report back.
· The Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport informed the meeting that hand-weeding was the most ecologically friendly method of clearing weeds, however there was a significant cost element to this. The Committee noted that the Council was committed to increasing biodiversity and improving the natural environment and had made a number of improvements over recent years.
The Chair thanked Emma Pavans de Ceccatty for her attendance to brief the Committee and in particular welcome the Corporate Directors’ willingness to work with the Charity going forward.