Controversial weedkiller used in Calderdale to be phased out

Wellholme Park in Brighouse
Wellholme Park in Brighouse

The phase-out of a controversial weedkiller will continue but without a complete ban placed on it immediately, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet has agreed.

Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said the council had already been reducing use of glysophate-based herbicides.

There were concerns about long term health risks in using the chemical, recent legal cases in the U.S. bringing the issue to the forefront again.

The council was suggesting stopping glysophate use on soft landscaped surfaces now with its use on hard landscaped areas, such as pavements, over a 12 to 24 month period.

“We need to test the effectiveness of alternative methods, also it will cost us a significant amount of money to do this – if we do that we have to take it out of something else,” she said.

The chemical will still be used to tackle certain plants where it appears to be the only treatment that works, including Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said he still had concerns about it being used on hard surfaces as people could still come into contact with it, for example if they fell over.

Soft landscape weed removal options include doing this by hand, using a geranium extract known as Khatoun Gold, a mix of those methods, or swapping glysophate for an alternate herbicide.

The latter would be cost neutral compared to the annual £86,000 cost of using glysophate (£8,000 for materials and £78,000 in staff time), but manual removal would cost £375,000 more annually and using the geranium extract £63,000 more.

Hard landscape options in the longer term would be mechanical sweeping, or manual where appropriate at a total extra annual cost (capital and revenue) of £419,000 a year, using vinegar (£272,000), and hot wash (£962,000), hot foam (£937,000) or flame gun (£427,000) techniques.

As the service has to make £50,000 savings this year rising to £100,000 next year, any extra costs will have to be met from elsewhere in the departmental budget, with council officers using the £207,000 associated costs of cleaning Calderdale’s town centres, Halifax, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge, Brighouse and Elland.