Concerns raised over glyphosates weedkiller use near pollinator site at Foreness Point and across district

There are concerns that the herbicide is damaging to pollinators

Thanet councillors have raised concerns over use in the district of weedkiller containing glyphosates.

Councillors Becky Wing and Barry Manners have questioned the use of the herbicide which some studies have labelled as a probable carcinogen while others say the product, most commonly known as RoundUp, is toxic to fish and birds and can kill beneficial insects and soil organisms that maintain ecological balance.

The European Chemicals Agency however, says there is no reason to classify it as a carcinogen and it is approved for use by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as safe to its users and the public, and for use on the public highway.

Cllrs Wing and Manners say they are alarmed the spray was used by the perimeter of Foreness Point and The Ridings.

Foreness Point is being turned into a wildflower rich habitat area for pollinators, birds and other wildlife. The chalk grassland  was designated a Local Wildlife Site in 2009 and was part of a biodiversity project called Making a Buzz for the Coast, in collaboration with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust between 2017 and 2021.

Cllr Manners said: “The Ridings is a nationally significant bio-diverse open clifftop space. It has been carefully managed by Thanet council to provide an increasingly scarce habitat for bees and other endangered pollinators.

“Local residents are naturally protective of this wildlife and tourism asset. I am appalled that Kent County Council is spraying glyphosate along its perimeter – or anywhere else for that matter when there are proven alternatives.

“Residents have a right to be angry. Somewhere close to £200,000 of public and grant money has been spent in recent years to develop the very biodiversity that glyphosates destroy.”

‘Diluted’

KCC says the glyphosate it uses is diluted with water and is the most commonly used weedkiller for public areas. The authority says it does not use neonicotinoids, which are insecticides with identified risks to bees, and only highway/path areas are treated by the authority with no Thanet council sites, such as the wildlife area at Foreness, coming under their contractor’s remit.

Cllr Wing at The Ridings

 

Cllr Wing says she is “shocked” that glyphosate may have been used near The Ridings, adding: “This is a strip of considerable ecological importance that sits next to an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Importance), it is also part of Kent’s Bee Plan. I am at a loss as to understand how this could have happened, given Kent’s recent national award for its Pollinator Action Plan; Kent’s Plan Bee.

“Workers were also spotted last April in Ramsgate and over the last few weeks and according to KCC’s own website they still use weed killer containing glyphosates and there appears to be no clear rational for its use.

Weeds debris Ramsgate

“For example, to reduce weeds creating trip hazards or causing structural issues to buildings, walls and other structures, indeed, armed with a rough map as witnessed, they appear to just spray. This process should be followed by district councils removing dead weeds, but this simply does not happen in most places and so the net result is a greater build up of weeds and so increased use of glyphosate.

“There seems to be no ‘joined up thinking or doing’ between county and district councils and certainly no discussion with councillors or more importantly the wider public, who have no choice in the use of it around their homes or within their community, without warning.”

Photo TDC

Cllr Wing says KCC should be recognised for its work on the pollinator action plan which aims to improve the food sources and general habitat for pollinators such as bees, wasps, butterflies, moths and hoverflies.

But, she says, glyphosate is known to affect pollinators, in particular bees where it directly impacts a colony’s potential to survive.

She added: “We really do need to re-think the use of this weed killer in terms of, is it necessary and if so where and why, can other approaches work and (there needs to be) better co-ordination and pooling of resources between town, district and county councils.”

Cllr Wing has submitted a Freedom of Information Request to KCC about the issue and will be asking a question at Thanet council’s full meeting in October about the district’s possible use of weedkiller containing glyphosate.

She added: “I have also written to KCC Cllr Sean Holden and Susan Carey, who have led on Kent’s Pollinator Action Plan, to express my dismay at the continued widespread use of weed killer with glyphosate and to ask for support.”

‘Spot checks’

A KCC spokesperson said: “All operatives are required to be competent in the application of herbicide and follow the necessary industry guidance.

“We also carry out spot checks to ensure that standards are being met and investigate any issues raised by the public with the contractors involved.”

Biodiversity at Foreness Point

Photo TDC

Last month Thanet council’s Climate Change team hosted the two interactive sessions in partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, at the Margate location, with a focus on biodiversity and bees.

Attended by community group representatives, local residents and ward councillors, the free events provided an opportunity for people to engage with nature and expand their understanding of local wildlife.

The biodiversity walk led by the council’s Climate Change team, featured a tour of Foreness Point’s 18-acre area of chalk grassland. The council says the aim is to further increase biodiversity for wildlife and local people to enjoy.

Cllr Rob Yates, Cabinet Member for Climate Change said: “Wildflower meadows and grassland such as Foreness Point provide shelter and food for important pollinators including bees. A key priority for this site is to increase the abundance of wildflowers, and to create a variety of different habitats in order to support local wildlife.

“This includes swathes of wildflowers which are beautiful to the eye, as well as a tapestry of varied habitat such as scrub and brambles, tall shrubs and plants which all provide perfect nesting areas for solitary bees and migratory birds.

“The north Kent coast is also recognised nationally for its diversity of bumblebee species. It supports at least 20 of the 24 UK species, including five of the seven nationally rare and scarce bumblebees. I was surprised by just how many different types of bees there were in this grassland, it was beautiful to see.

“Events such as these provide a fantastic opportunity for us to learn more about the natural world and gain a deeper understanding of how we can all contribute to its protection.”

Photo TDC

A second walk at the site included a bee survey with five different species of bees were found in 90 minutes, including the Red-shanked carder bumblebee, one of Kent’s rare species. Other vital pollinating insects were also recorded including several solitary bees such as the Green-eyed flower bee, and Bee wolf. Species of moths and butterflies were also found.

Emma Lansdell, of Bumblebee Conservation Trust who works for Kent County Council as Kent’s Plan Bee Officer, said: “The diversity and wildlife importance of the grassland and scrub habitats of Foreness Point benefit from the management carried out by Thanet District Council, with help from local volunteers. It is a beautiful and valuable site for biodiversity and pollinators.

“In the short time we had to survey the area at the event, through the enthusiasm of the local people attending, its value was demonstrated by the range and numbers of bumblebees and other insects recorded.

“Foreness Point is vital for providing a well-managed and flower-rich sanctuary and stepping-stone, connecting with other important locations along the north Kent coast – one of the UK’s hotspots for bumblebees.

“The conservation and careful management of places such as Foreness Point is critical for the future of essential pollinators – so that their populations don’t just survive but thrive.”

For more information about bees visit www.bumblebeeconservation.org

Nature with Nik Mitchell: The unsung hero of the pollinating world

26 Comments

  1. Good luck to barry manners to change kent county council (conservative) to change policy, the Labour Party will give you all the support you wantb

    • Thanks Barry.
      Pity Rob Yates did not actually comment on use of glyphosate in Thanet. Especially as he is the environment portfolio holder.
      Perhaps he can be bothered to respond to my email of 24th August!

  2. I totally agree with rhe Councillors but have any of TDC councillors walked around this area.It is infested with weeds on an industrial scale.If you swept the streets the weeds wouldn’t have detritus to act as compost.Perhaps you should go round and dig them out.There are roads in Thanet where the weeds are 5ft high and look more like shrubbery.It is gross neglect.The shanty weed look is followed by litter and then the graffiti follows.

  3. Labour doesn’t care for the Pink Checksfield because he is a dyed in the hair Tory or kipper.
    What you must understand is that weeds are wildflowers in the wrong place.
    People get wound up over tidyness because they have houses with the municipal car park look at the front and AstroTurf instead of grass at the rear.
    We are creating sterile empty space internally in many houses and this sterility is spreading outside.It ain’t cottage garden in most houses.
    Glyphosate has no future,even in retail use.There is little point in using watered down glyphosate because it won’t be an effective application.
    All glyphosate does is kill the vegetation but unless it is removed it will act as a seed bed for the next crop of weeds.ig you are going to mechanically remove the seed bed there’s little point in using glyphosate anyway.Flaming the weeds works but that uses fossil fuels.
    Same old short termism from KCC which never addresses the issue.

  4. Poppycock, it has been used for decades & nobody has died from it yet. Just like the disgraceful EU banned good old DDT when it was good for all. We are now out of Europe & people should be free to spray what they like without the interference of the bureaucratic muscle from Brussels & even if it does have harmful effects to these vermin then they have the choice whether to ingest it or not.

    • Steve’s comment is very depressing. And his last sentence referring to vermin who “have the choice whether to ingest it or not” is very unclear. What are these “vermin”?

      • Quite agree M.M. Rees. Anyone referring to human beings as ‘vermin’ should surely be banned from posting. Well I think he’s talking about human beings … he first states that glyphosate and DDT are virtually health foods (‘good for all’) and then suggests that if they are indeed harmful the ‘vermin’ can decide whether to ingest them or not without clarifying who or what the vermin are. I’m sweating the small stuff here … but some posts are so mind-bogglingly nonsensical, offensive & cruel they fascinate me for a few seconds.

    • Read Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring published 1962 then come back and say these insecticides/pesticides are harmless to anything other than plants and insects.

  5. Dig out Thanets weeds.It would take years.They have been neglected and allowed to grow year on year.I agree gross neglect.Shameful.

  6. KCC are irresponsible when it come to the use glyphosates.

    We all now know that use of these chemicals causes harm. Every year where ever glyphosate has been used – residents report bee’s dying. Dog owner report their pets becoming sick. I’ve raised this issue several times at KCC during full council meetings. The risks are always downed played, batted back and dismissed.

    I’ve also asked for a risk assessment in regard to KCC workers and contractors using these products. My union the GMB have called for the guidance by the World Health Organisation to be heeded, and for these products to be treated as a severe health risk to the general public.

    On the balance of current evidence available KCC should stop using glyphosate immediately and replace it with safer alternatives – many of which have been trialled by councils in the UK. I reeled off a list for the councillor’s at the meeting.

    KCC would do well to heed this call to action, which as I pointed out, follows a landmark decision in the US which ruled that Monsanto’s Roundup – which contains glyphosate as its key ingredient – was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer and ordered the company to pay $289 million in damages. This was the first case of its kind but there are another 8,000 similar cases pending in the US alone.

    This will happen in the U.K. and councils like Kent County Council who have turned a blind eye, need to be aware!

  7. I’d rather get rid of weeds than have Thanet looking like a third world country with plants in kerbs and blocked drains.

  8. Local offenders should be given the job of weeding, and they should wear a hi- vis jacket stating that they are doing community service. Failure to turn up for work should not be an option, chain gangs without the chains.

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      • PC you have fallen asleep again.
        I repeat for the benefit of Steve there is no point in applying glyphosate or anything else if you do not remove the dead plants as they will create a seed bed.
        Yes, glyphosate has been used for years,but there are doubts about its safety.it is supposed to breakdown on contact with the soil,but when trialled in Thanet 10 years ago,traces of glyphosate were found in the drains.
        If you want to remove poppycocks or anything else mechanical removal is necessary.
        My beef with KCC is how they apply the pesticide in that they use a bloke on a Kubota spraying with one hand and driving with the other.I once saw a man and his dog sprayed with this method.

  9. Cllr Constantine I totally agree but the weeds grow due to TDC neglect.So are you going to remove them now they have been sprayed.I know the answer to that is no because I have witnessed 10 years of this.SWEEP the streets and the weeds and grass turfs won’t grow….then there isnt a need for spraying.Also you might not have 1 in 3 drains completely silted up.

  10. I agree its important to think about animals and wildlife but what about my wellbeing.Weeds and grafitti on industrial levels.Litter everywhere.Just taken a walk around the beaches of Broadstairs.Overflowing bins,beer cans,fish and chips wrappings,cigarette butts,nappies,coffee cups,beer glasses,plastic knife and forks,dead rat,tissues,wet Wipes etc strewn everywhere.Wish you were here.You Greens and other Councillors need to address all these problems and remember it’s us locals paying for this poor service.

  11. OK enough already with the mysogny.if weeds on the road are such a problem get hoeing and quit moaning.
    As for sorting out the criminal justice system,yes,by all means have more payback squads,but they aren’t all that productive.Trouble is the Fred’s of this world insist on banging up huge numbers of crims,yet excuse the outrageous behaviour of some of those in the corporate world and in parliament.
    At £46000 per prisoner per annum we need to come with something better,that reduces recidivism.
    DDT was banned years before the EU became the EU,and it was banned worldwide,because it killed animals and birds further up the food chain.It did not kill weeds.
    Later pesticides started to harm human beings which is why they were withdrawn.The latest thinking uses biological control,but that won’t sort out weeds.
    What will sort weeds is a decent funding system for local govt.Part of the reasons why KCC and TDC are are such numpties is all the short term expedients they employ to save money and keep the show on the road.Central Govt has cut funding by half, that’s why nothing works in Thanet,Kent,or the UK.

  12. Sorry George I travel in my work all over London and the South East.There are more weeds,litter and grafitti in this area alone. There are 5ft shrubbery type weeds on industrial levels all over Thanet.
    All it takes is to sweep the roads instead of producing compost.This would save money and the need for continual spraying.Easy really,it’s just that TDC cant grasp it.
    I would willingly offer to spray the weeds but probably would brake some TDC ruling.I also sweep my whole road because it hasnt seed a TDC broom or Scarab in the 11 years I have lived here.Still I suppose I could grow potatoes in detritus if I ever went hungry.

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