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Grounds Maintenance Contract

Garden flowers

We have taken our first steps to stop the use of glyphosate-based weedkillers across all our communities, including shrub and flower borders and hard surfaces such as car parking areas and pathways from 1 April 2022.

We have a robust plan in place to manage weed growth by using a programme of manual weeding and using bark mulch in borders as a natural way of suppressing weeds. It will also be trialling alternative options to keep weeds at bay.

Glyphosate is one of the most commonly used herbicides for weeds in the UK and worldwide. While there is no government guidance against its use, the World Health Organisation has classified Glyphosate as ‘potentially harmful to health’. It is for this reason that we have joined a growing number of UK Local Authorities in stopping its use on land that it maintains.

This move follows Colchester Borough Council’s success in stopping the use of the potentially harmful glyphosate weed killer in April 2021 and will further reduce the use of chemical weedkillers in Colchester.

Please see the frequently asked questions below for more information.

Q: What is Glyphosate?
A: Glyphosate is the active substance in many herbicide products and is widely used around the world. It is the most effective substance for controlling invasive weed species and in some cases the only effective substance.

Q: Why is weed control necessary?
A: We strive to keep our pathways and hard surfaces free from weeds and ensure they’re accessible to all residents. A good quality, consistent weed control programme reduces slip and trip hazards and potential access issues, reduces the damage caused by root growth and improves how the area looks.

Q: Why have we decided to stop using Glyphosate based products?
A: There are increasing concerns about the impact of glyphosate on health, and whilst the incidence of cases relating to glyphosate worldwide are very rare the World Health Organisation has classified it as ‘potentially harmful to health’. It is for this reason that Colchester Borough Council and Colchester Borough Homes have joined a growing number of UK Local Authorities in stopping its use on land that it maintains.

There are also added benefits in not using chemicals to control weeds in that there is significantly less risk to pollinating insects and there is no chemical build up in the soil. This move supports the commitments to protect our environment set out in Colchester Borough Council’s climate emergency declaration which was agreed in 2019.

Q: What will we be doing instead?
A: We will hand weed shrub and flower borders, using hand tools. We will also be making more use of bark mulch to prevent weeds growing in the first place and will ensure that all new landscaping will include weed control membranes.

Weeds growing around obstacles (like streetlights and fence posts) and on hard surfaces (like car parks, footpaths and drying areas) will be cut to ground level with a strimmer.

We will be trialling alternative herbicide weed killers that do not contain Glyphosate to see how effective these are.

Q: How often will this happen?
A: During March to October, we will hand weed the shrub and flower borders once a month and a weed control visit will take place once over the winter between November and February.

Weeds and grass growing around obstacles, like streetlights and fence posts, will be cut every four weeks between March and October.

Hard surfaces, like footpaths, car parks and drying areas will be cut every six weeks from March to October.

The weather may have an impact on how often weeds are cut as the grounds needs to be dry. If it is raining on a date when strimming is due, we will reschedule to visit when the ground has dried.

We will be working closely with Colchester Borough Council and idverde (our contractors) to monitor how effective these changes are and to identify where improvements can be made.

Q: Why don’t you just use a different herbicide?
A: Alternative herbicides that don’t contain Glyphosate are available and we will be working with Colchester Borough Council and idverde to trial these in some areas. However, at the moment the alternatives are much more expensive to buy, and their effectiveness is unknown.

Q: Who does this apply to?
A: All contractors and sub-contractors working for or on behalf of Colchester Borough Homes. Other organisations who maintain land within the Borough are not affected by our, or the Council’s, decision.

Q: Are there any exceptions?
A: Yes. Our contractors will continue to use Glyphosate based herbicides to treat invasive plants like Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed. However, the application of these herbicides is undertaken by specialist contractors in a controlled manner.

Q: Will strimming be as effective as using Glyphosate?
A: No. Strimming doesn’t get rid of the roots of the weeds so they will grow again. As a result, some areas will look untidier, especially during spring and early summer and just prior to the weeds being cut.

Q: Is this going to cost more?
A: No. The change in approach will be covered by existing Grounds Maintenance budgets.