Community campaign persuades Edinburgh council to halt use of chemical weedkiller in a pilot this year

Balerno group welcomes 'huge first step'

Monday, 2nd March 2020, 6:00 am
The Pesticide Free Balerno campaigners at the City Chambers
The Pesticide Free Balerno campaigners at the City Chambers

COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to stop using a controversial weedkiller in the Balerno area this summer after a passionate appeal from the community.

Campaigners from Pesticide-free Balerno told councillors how local people felt health issues which they and their pets had experienced were related to the spraying of glyphosate by the council.

Transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes told them the use of the chemical would be halted in the Balerno area this summer, with an alternative hot foam treatment to be trialled next year.

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Annie MacDonald, who led the campaign group’s deputation to the transport and environment committee, welcomed the move as “a huge first step” and said she hoped the ban would soon be extended to the whole city.

She said some people had suffered respiratory problems or a burning sensation which they believed were linked to the spraying while pets had experienced irritated paws among other problems.

“There have been lots of reports from different people - people who have had their window open when someone was spraying outside and they have felt their throat burning.

“Not everyone is affected. Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of a chemical like this.”

Ms MacDonald said in 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer identified glyphosate, the world’s most commonly used herbicide, as a probable human carcinogen.

She had told the committee the campaign to stop the use of glyphosate had the support of the area’s councillors, MP and MSP as well as the community councils and also had volunteers ready to help weeding.

She said: “We don’t want a chemical forced on us when we have asked for a safe alternative.”

Cllr Macinnes said the council was trying to move away from indiscriminate spraying.

She told the campaigners: “You very much have the backing of the council in terms of general move on weed control.”

But she warned them that in common with other councils they faced financial pressures and the cost of the alternative hot foam treatment was estimated at £83,000 for Balerno alone.

“If we then expanded that across the rest of the city that’s going to blow our budget for weed treatment.”

And she said the council also received many complaints about weeds. “We have a balancing issue here in terms of public demands.

“We are happy to halt glyphosate use in Balerno for this coming growing season. Let’s take a look at it and see what the impact is and that will feed into future funding decisions.”