Thousands of people have signed a petition objecting to the return of a toxic weedkiller to the streets of Brighton and Hove.

The petition – Keep Brighton and Hove Free of Toxic Weedkillers – was set up by Clara Usiskin on the website and has more than 6,500 signatures at the time of writing.

Ms Usiskin was inspired to start the petition after Brighton and Hove City Council decided to use an oil-based version of glyphosate weedkiller.

Members of the council’s city environment, South Downs and the sea committee voted for the return of the controversial herbicide last month, almost five years after a decision to end its use.


To have access to all of our best stories subscribe to The Argus here


Get more stories delivered to your inbox every day by signing up to our morning newsletter


Contractors will be expected to use a “controlled droplet” approach with the herbicide – sold commercially as Roundup – applying it to individual weeds rather than spraying it as previously.

Weeds Nearly London Road Station

Weeds Nearly London Road Station

Ms Usiskin set up her petition the day before the vote. It said: “There is evidence to suggest that in the years since 2019, biodiversity in Brighton and Hove has improved, for example, the starling, hedgehog and sparrow population.

“By creating and supporting biodiverse green spaces in the city, Brighton and Hove City Council is enabling vulnerable people to access nature.

“Glyphosates have been described as likely carcinogens by the World Health Organisation. The reintroduction of glyphosates in Brighton and Hove would put people and nature at risk.”

Ms Usiskin has sympathy with the council’s position because there was no phase-out plan, just an end to spraying the weedkiller along streets, resulting in some areas becoming overgrown.

She said: “As I understand it, I see they have a duty of care to make the pavements safe for people. That’s really important.

“My sense of what happened is they have found themselves in a situation where they have problems they can’t solve and they’ve got to get it done without spending much money and to them it seems like glyphosate is a solution.

“I feel really strongly that they haven’t explored all the options.”

Ms Usiskin had hoped to present the petition at the most recent full council meeting, on Thursday 1 February.

She started the petition on Monday 22 January and reached the 1,250-signature target for debate a week before the meeting.

But the council requires 10 days’ notice for a petition to go on the agenda so Ms Usiskin will present it to councillors in March instead.

She asked Labour councillor Tim Rowkins: “Has Labour u-turned on declaring a biodiversity emergency”?

Councillor Rowkins, who chairs the city environment, South Downs and the sea committee, said that Labour had not u-turned.

He said: “We are working on a number of large-scale biodiversity projects in and around the city that are focused entirely on aiding nature recovery.

“(These include) implementing the city Downland Estate Plan, which is a landscape-scale intervention to restore wild chalk grassland on the South Downs and to move local farming practices away from the intensive methods of the late 20th century.

“Chalk grassland is incredibly species-rich and the South Downs represents 44 per cent of the city’s footprint so this will have a profound impact on the local and regional biodiversity.”

He said that the council had a duty to look after residents by providing safe and accessible infrastructure – and the unchecked weed growth without any plan to tackle it required a “reset”.