Pesticide sprayers must improve says new Amenity Forum campaign

The Amenity Forum is to launch a campaign to bump up standards on use of pesticides and will target sprayers in local authorities.

The campaign, to be launched at next week’s Saltex show, was prompted by the Sustainable Use Directive, for which a draft national action plan is under consultation until late October. The forum said the amenity sector had to "raise its game".

Chairman John Moverley said: "Farmers have a driver to improve standards and best practice, the farm assured scheme, which they sign up to if they want to sell crops. Our sector has no such established driver and anyone with a van and spray can do it.

"The forum has driven up best practice but the reality is we operate in a very complex sector, which accounts for around 10 per cent of pesticides used, a significant amount. We need to reach out to a lot more people."

Moverley said the Sustainable Use Directive contained "nuances" that could sting unwitting pesticide users in amenity work and local authorities were most at risk. For example, knapsack sprayers were not so heavily affected but mounted prayers were.

"The plan is to up our game with the campaign, a series of co-ordinated events to get as many people as possible to sign up to the concept that if we can show best practice and commitment to proper risk assessment we will be seen to get out act together."

Top target was local authorities, he said, because often specifiers were not sprayers, which led to confusion and mixed messages. Budget-cut councils under could also "cut corners" in choosing contractors and ensuring staff are trained.

"Local authorities are a worry: there’s no doubt there is both a lack of knowledge and an ignorance about potential consequences because if something goes wrong, ultimately the liability comes back to them."

Moverley criticised the Government for failing to understand the amenity sector used a lot of pesticides in towns, which had no less serious implications than those in the agricultural sector. "We don’t want to cause a scare but need to up the game," he said.

The campaign has four elements. Firstly, Moverley will launch the push at a seminar at Saltex on 4 September called Promoting Best Practice & Standards in the Amenity Sector - critical issues and challenges facing the sector.

Then, best practice will be revisited on 9 October at the Amenity Forum annual conference at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, and on 2 November at Pride Park, Derby, another event, organised by BASIS, will run with the issue.

Meanwhile, a series of regional talks are planned over the winter with the support of the Chemicals Regulations Directorate to highlight the main challenges. Dates are to be confirmed and authorities keen to host an event should contact the forum.

Further details are available from Amenity Forum secretary

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