Weeds, Bees and Biodiversity

Looking after nature while making sure our town still looks neat and tidy is a fine line to tread.  We know we have to do more to look after insects and pollinators, like bees, but we also know that we have a duty to stop weeds growing wild across the pavement, creating an unpleasant look and trip hazards.

With this and the climate emergency in mind, Cheltenham has committed to minimising the use of weed killer on our streets.  The chemicals in weed killers can often be harmful for insects, which has a knock-on impact on other larger animals and, ultimately, humans too.

Having decided to cut down from two town-wide sprays to one, we are now trialling alternative approaches to weed control, such as the use of “rippers” – rotary pavement sweepers equipped with wire arms to tear weeds out.

Following initial deployment of the kit to the town centre, ripping has recently moved on to residential areas such as Warden Hill, Whaddon and St Paul’s.  Our innovative approach caught the eye of the media and we were featured on BBC Points West earlier this year.

Meanwhile, to promote biodiversity, we have created natural grassland habitats in our town parks. Insects, birds and small animals are being supported by allowing grass to grow long, for example in Pittville, Naunton and Springfield parks.  But we can always do more.

We are aware, however, that there is a range of views on this issue.  While some tell us that weeds are simply plants ‘out of place’, many people rightly want us to keep things looking tidy.  For those worrying that we are turning a blind eye to weeds entirely and letting things go wild, I can tell you that the new policy doesn’t mean we are stopping using weed killer entirely.  The annual schedule started earlier in the summer.  You can find details here: https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/weed-control

- Councillor Iain Dobie, cabinet member for Waste, Recycling and Street Services

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