Agenda item - Chairs Communications

skip navigation and tools

Agenda item

Chairs Communications


35.1      The Chair provided the following cokmmunications:


“Since the last meeting of this committee, I’m pleased to report that planning permission has been granted for the new public toilet and café facility at The Level. The renovation of the McLaren Pavilion will restore vital public amenities to this heavily-used city centre park, and we hope to have it open and in use early this summer.

Phase 2 of our Public Toilet Refurbishment Programme is also underway, and will see brand new facilities at the Ovingdean Undercliff and Goldstone Villas sites. Goldstone villas will see major work undertaken to raise the floor from its current subterranean configuration to street level in order to provide better access for all our residents.

Work is progressing well on 3 new accessible “Changing Places” toilets. The facility at Stanmer Park is due to be finished in March, with Preston Park and St Ann’s Well Gardens coming in June.


Members will also have seen the latest data on missed refuse collections, which are down around 90% since summer 2023. Our work to modernise the service and clean up the working culture and City Clean continues, and later this week the Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration committee will meet to discuss the recommendations from the independent KC report, and we are committed to implementing them in full.


Today we will be dealing with a subject that has split opinion for years – the weeds. There was a time when councillor’s inboxes were full of requests to ban the use of glyphosate in the city. Since then, councillor’s inboxes have been full instead with implores to do something about the out-of-control weed problem making their streets unsafe and inaccessible.

In 2019, this committee’s predecessor banned the use of glyphosate with immediate effect, contrary to the advice of the very group leading the campaign to stop using the herbicide. The Pesticide Action Network recommend a 3-year managed phase out, not a cliff-edge ban, which they warn is likely to be counterproductive. And indeed it was.

Since then, the council has relied on manual removal. Let me just be clear about what that means: it means giving our streets staff hoes. That’s it. That’s the sum total of the policy under the previous administration. Little wonder that since taking over in 2023, we have had so many desperate requests to do something.

Allow me to summarise the situation going in to 2024. After 5 full years of unchecked growth, roots are so well established that they have begun damaging roads and pavements. We have a backlog of repairs for which there is no budget.

Parts of the city are completely wild, and many of our residents – wheelchair users, parents and carers with buggies, those with visual or mobility impairments – simply can’t travel the distance of their own street safely. I have been out with our staff, I’ve seen it for myself.

Only this morning, I heard about a disabled resident in the Coombe Road area. She is reliant on a mobility scooter to move around the city, and the pavements in the area were so impassable for her that she has taken to using the road instead.

The council has a duty to maintain safe and accessible pavements, and we are currently failing in that duty.

I’m going to be open and honest about this. When we first started looking at this, I was absolutely determined to find a way to get the problem under control without the use of herbicides. If we wanted to just roll over on a manifesto promise and spray the streets, we could have done it 6 months ago.

Instead, we have conducted an exhaustive assessment of every possible alternative; mechanical rippers, hot water, foam, acetic acid, salt and vinegar, electric shocks – even flamethrowers.

The truth is, none of these are effective or viable. And let’s not forget, we are not dealing with the 2019 problem – we are dealing with the 2024 problem.

We need a reset.

Once it became clear that the only way to bring that problem back under control was some kind of herbicide application, we (and I personally) set about finding the safest and most environmentally-friendly way of doing it.

A conventional glyphosate application would have been the easiest option. It’s what we used to do, it’s what the vast majority of other councils do, we know it works and it is cost-effective.

But I and the other members of this committee take concerns around safety and biodiversity extremely seriously. That is why we have gone above and beyond to find a way forward that substantially reduces any health and safety risk and potential impact on biodiversity. As you will see in the body of the report, the controlled droplet application will be significantly more expensive. You will all be aware of the extremely difficult financial situation the council is facing, but despite this, our commitment to doing this in the most responsible way possible is so firm that we believe it is worth it.

I have seen commentary that this would represent a backwards step or a return to the status quo pre 2019. Let me just be clear about the previous approach:

Glyphosate was mixed with water and sprayed in a pressurised mist, sprayed indiscriminately up and down every street in the city and in every park and open space. This mist contained tiny, breathable droplets, and would easily drift beyond the area intended, impacting other plants and wildlife in the vicinity.

What we are proposing today is very different. The controlled droplet application uses a lower concentration of glyphosate which is suspended in a non-toxic oil solution that sticks to the target plants. This solution is released in uniform, larger droplets that are released under gravity alone and will be applied only to visible weeds. It produces no breathable droplets and is far less prone to drift. It is rain fast within an hour and so the risk of run-off is greatly reduced.

Crucially, this will apply only to pavements and roads. We will not be treating weeds in any of our parks and green spaces.

So this is not a backward step – it is a pragmatic and responsible third way that will get the problem under control while minimising the risks.

It is a way to press reset and do it properly. Once we have the problem back under control, we will reduce the use of herbicide in the way that the Pesticide Action Network suggests – managed, controlled and responsible – how it should have been the first time”.


Brighton & Hove City Council | Hove Town Hall | Hove | BN3 3BQ | Tel: (01273) 290000 | Mail: | how to find us | comments & complaints