Amenity sector anticipates prohibitive cost increases

The landscape and amenity sectors could face spiralling costs in the face of stricter controls on the use of herbicides in "sensitive areas".

The Sustainable Use Directive states that the use of pesticides in areas such as public parks, sports grounds or playgrounds, should be reduced as far as possible or eliminated entirely. Pesticides along transport routes, such as railway lines, should also be reduced or eliminated, the directive says.

According to BALI technical director Neil Huck, alternatives are massively costly: "This will have an impact across the amenity industry. It could be up to 50 per cent more expensive and you could end up sending thousands of people out with hoes."

The Amenity Forum, which promotes environmentally aware stewardship in amenity horticulture, landscaping and sports turf, is to hold a one-day conference next Thursday on pesticides. Forum chairman Jon Allbutt urged individuals and organisations involved in vegetation management to lobby their local MEP on the issue.

"Local authorities will not be able to afford the huge increase in costs that alternatives mean; it is a simple economic fact," said Allbutt. "There are some very serious safety and economic issues, including flooding, as well as producing world-class sports facilities.

He added: "The suggestion that there might be a blanket prohibition in sensitive areas raises big issues, and we believe we've shown the way in protecting vulnerable groups. We want our risk-based approach to be continued; just to say 'no spraying in these areas' seems to be unnecessary."

National Association of Agricultural & Amenity Contractors chairman Richard Minton said the sector was struggling to cope with weeds "even with chemicals", adding: "Groundsmen and greenkeepers are reliant on pesticides."

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