A group of locals have recently started The Watchet Pesticide Free Action Group and set up a Facebook page having discovered that Watchet Town Council was contracting out the spraying of a glyphosate-based weedkiller on the town’s pavements and pathways and in the council-run resident’s car park in West Street where they also rent out allotments.
Ione Harris, who lives in West Street, first noticed plants around the car park dying in 2016 and because the poison had been sprayed within feet of the allotment rented to her by the Town Council she asked what had been used. The council said it was Glyphosate and a complaint was made that such a chemical should not be used next to land rented for the growing of food.
When she noticed again the distortion of the leaves and the death spreading across the car park in late May of this year, and as the full area of dead plants became clear it was even nearer the allotment than the year before, she again made a full complaint to the Council.
PHOTO AT TOP: The car park after the application of weedkiller and (below) some images of it beforehand.
It became apparent over the next couple of weeks that the entire length of West Street had also been poisoned and eventually the resulting death could be seen across the entire town. The Glyphosate had been sprayed up against peoples houses and garden walls near the river basin, the slipway to the beach, the edge of the marina, near the children’s play area on the Memorial Ground, etc and more residents started to lose poppies, daisies and other wild flowers from outside their houses and more voiced their concern at the use of a hazardous chemical without warning and without regard for the safety of their children and pets.
Glyphosate products carry many warnings to stay away while its wet.
Following many complaints made to the Council, this use of weedkiller was discussed at a Council meeting.
A resolution was passed and the Council agreed to remove West Street Car Park bordering the allotments from the contract and to look into alternative methods to use around town.
However, the contract continues for a ‘treatment’ twice yearly and this October the Council’s contractors were again due to spray the pavements and pathways with Glyphosate.
The Watchet Pesticide Free Action Group has been formed by concerned residents to try and end the Town Council’s use of pesticide . They have looked into various alternate methods of controlling unwanted plant growth and is raising awareness of the issue in the local area.
It has been pointed out to the Council that the use of weedkiller does not clear the unwanted plant growth away and that the carcasses of poisoned plants remained across town for many weeks after treatment. That the town looks worse in fact. The group suggest hand weeding would be the best solution in most areas and would enable the cleaning away of any build up of dead plant matter and earth rather than the spraying of pesticide that increases the build up and less desirable, vigorous weeds are more able to set seed.
The group believe that hand weeding (which many residents already do outside their own properties), together with other methods in specific problem areas, could be used and could well work out to be cheaper.
The group also believe that using such a harmful chemical in public places without warning is not good practice and that Watchet could rather be an example to other towns to end the use of pesticides, to be more environmentally friendly, to increase the diversity of flora and fauna and to be more visually pleasing for residents and visitors alike.
The group are aiming for a pesticide-free town and are formulating a plan to actively enhance the bio-diversity of the area by introducing more wild flowers to otherwise unused grass verges and banks. They envisage a wealth of flowers, all native and found within a mile or two of Watchet; a celebration of the beauty of the area in which they live.
Glastonbury has gone pesticide-free and other towns are working towards it.
The group believes this to be an achievable aim and seems the obvious way forward for such a pretty coastal town.