#Cardiff parks: @PEBradbury refuses to take further action against weedkiller linked to cancer

Fairwater park, Cardiff

Cardiff’s Cabinet Member for Parks acknowledges that the Vale of Glamorgan council has stopped using Glyphosate in a selection of its parks, but he refuses to commit to similar action in the capital

In a recent letter to the Civic Society (below), Cllr Peter Bradbury answers some of our most recent questions on Cardiff’s continued use of deadly chemicals in city parks.

The weedkiller in question – glyphosate – is best known as brandname Roundup. Its producer Bayer, recently agreed pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims that the product causes cancer in humans.

Dear Cardiff Civic Society

27 July 2020

Management Of Council Land Grass Mowing & Glyphosate Use

Thank you for your most recent e-mail and your continued interest in matters, for the purpose of this reply I have addressed the points in the order raised in your letter, some of the matters that you raise have been addressed as part of previous correspondence.

We are pleased that you have agreed to increase areas where the land will be managed for the benefit of wild flowers. However, this is a modest – very modest – improvement. We would welcome confirmation that these areas, as well as existing “no mow” areas (e.g. patch on Llandaff Fields), will be cut at the right time of year and the grass cuttings removed (“cut and lift” management).

The introduction of further grassland areas converted to regimes aimed at improving biodiversity is in line with the Council’s commitment to increase such year on year. The areas that have been identified in this tranche and in previous tranches will all have a late cut to allow flowers to set seed and insects to complete their life cycles. Many of these areas are already within the ‘cut and lift’ regime and more areas will be added following the sourcing of additional machinery, as referred to in our initial response.

Much of your response is simply irrelevant to the issues we raised. We did not mention the climate crisis; the management of SSSIs; the number of volunteers in your Friends groups; or trees.

Our response intended to provide context, setting out how the Council was seeking to address climate change, which impacts on biodiversity and habitats, as you indicate. Furthermore, we felt that the information provided would be of interest to you given the wider provisions of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 that you reference, your organisational objectives and comments made regarding the absence of progress being made by the Council on matters of interest to you.

There are also a number of misrepresentations, false assumptions and inaccuracies in your response – e.g. that less mowing could increase the Council’s carbon footprint. You have not provided any evidence for this statement.

To enlarge upon our comments concerning the carbon footprint, different management regimes require different management inputs. By way of an example, the increase can be experienced when comparing the annual regime for an annual pictorial meadow mix with a standard eight cut mowing regime for the equivalent area. Under the latter one machine can be used to undertake all annual operations. Typically, under the former regime and when taking into account the individual operations required that include spraying out, cultivating, seeding / over seeding, mowing with collection and disposal of arising’s up to three vehicle visits, one tractor visit and one mower visit are made. It is these factors and whereby larger machinery and machinery working harder can combine to increase emissions.

Your response did not address your future plans for increasing the land area managed for biodiversity. We suggest that the Council develop a plan for this, which provides details of locations, targets, timescales and who is responsible for implementation. By doing this, improvement can be monitored and the Council can be held to account. We notice that your BRED Plan includes the development of a Pollinator Action Plan. This was first discussed at a meeting of the Cardiff Biodiversity Partnership in September 2013 and it seems that, nearly seven years later, there is still no pollinator plan. This lack of action is woeful.

The BRED plan clearly sets out the Councils aspirations and commitment to managing land for Biodiversity within the City, with respect to all habitat types. This plan has been prepared in this manner to enable flexibility to adapt to potential projects, partnership working and funding opportunities. Actions undertaken to deliver against the BRED plan will be reviewed regularly and reported to the Welsh Government in line with the required reporting frequency. The Pollinator Action Plan is due to be finalised in the autumn and, as highlighted in our initial response the Council has worked with a wide range of partners to develop projects and mainstream activity to protect and increase pollinators and raise awareness of the importance of them.

The grass-cutting issue was also raised at a Cardiff Biodiversity Partnership meeting in 2013. So, despite this; the Environment (Wales) Act 2016; the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015; and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 s. 6 statutory guidance (see note below), it would seem that Cardiff Council has made very little progress on this important issue.

Furthermore, there have been real problems over the years in preserving the small improvements that have been made. For example, the Council attempted in 2016 to plough up part of Pontcanna Meadow, spray it with glyphosate and plant it with “pictorial meadow” seeds (which isn’t managing grassland for biodiversity). It also proposed using the Meadow for a VIP car park when the European Football competition was held in Cardiff in 2017. Fortunately, local people managed to get both these proposals stopped. Hailey Park has also been cut twice this year, even though the Council agreed to leave mowing until the end of summer.

Our initial response also set out the progress that has been made in modifying mowing regimes, in recent years. Our understanding of the proposals for the Pontcanna Meadow were that a flower rich native meadow mix was put forward for use and not a pictorial mix as you indicate. Notwithstanding this detail, we were very pleased to hear your recent comments from the Ecologist who specialises in grassland management regarding the diversity of species in the area.

“It is also important to recognise that managing grassland for biodiversity is not just about pollinators, important as they are. Well managed grassland provides habitat for a wide range of small mammals, birds and reptiles. So, a plan for improving land management for biodiversity, as suggested above, is vital.

We agree with your comments regarding the benefits for small mammals, birds and reptiles.

We note your comments about glyphosate use and are disappointed that the Council does not seem to be committed to reducing its use very considerably or phasing it out altogether. You will be aware that the Future Generations Commissioner has, in her recent Report, called for Wales to ban the use of pesticides. Other Welsh Councils seem to be taking more robust action on this issue – e.g. the Vale of Glamorgan Council has stopped using glyphosate in its parks, which is a good first step. Cardiff Council needs to follow suit.

Actions taken by the Council over time to reduce the use of Glyphosate were set out in our initial response, the Vale of Glamorgan has stopped using in Glyphosate in a selection of its parks, but not all, as you indicate.

“In your letter you state – Central to the Biodiversity and Resilience of Ecosystems Duty Forward Plan is an Implementation Programme which details projects that the Council is involved in to promote biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.

Unfortunately, the BRED Plan is not “SMART” – it contains no timescales nor identification of who is responsible for actions. There is no specific mention of reduced mowing and glyphosate use. These may be part of “development of Council wide pollinator action plan” but this really isn’t clear.

The Implementation Programme is a list of projects, which we intend to undertake as and when funding becomes available. When funding for a project or series of projects allows us to initiate them, then SMART targets will be added.

We welcome the Environmental Scrutiny Committee’s Managing Biodiversity and Natural Environment in Cardiff Report and we look forward to the Cabinet approving it in its entirety. We suggest though, that after the Report’s adoption, the BRED Plan is re-written, so that it provides clarity on what the Council is intending to do and by when.

The Environment ( Wales ) Act 2016 requires the BRED Forward Plan to be reported on every three years, with guidance that the plan should be adapted in the light of those reports and any other changes that the Public Body sees fit. Therefore, we will produce a new BRED Forward Plan before the end of 2022, and this will take account of the Cabinet response to the Environment Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations as well as input from other consultees.

Yn gywir / Yours sincerely

Y Cynghorydd / Councillor Councillor Peter Bradbury
Aelod Cabinet Dros Ddiwylliant a Hamdden
Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure

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