COLCHESTER Council will phase out the use of harmful glyphosate weedkillers for maintenance across all of its open spaces over the next six months, it has been announced.

Back in November the authority agreed to explore alternative approaches to tackling weeds instead of using glyphosates, which the World Health Organisation says are “probably carcinogenic”.

Since then the weedkillers have stopped being used in 74 play parks, around the 384 beach huts in West Mersea and at Old Heath Recreation Ground.

And between now and March the council will phase out glyphosates use across all open spaces, starting with sports grounds, the borough’s closed churchyards and council-managed highway verges.

The changes, which were approved by the council’s environment and sustainability taskforce, are being made to encourage biodiversity in the council’s green spaces and encourage pollinators and insects to flourish.

Leader of the council Mark Cory said: “At the Cabinet meeting, in November 2019, I promised we would phase out the use of glyphosate herbicides as soon as practically possible, so I’m really pleased we now have a final end date.

“We are ahead of many councils by taking this step to protect our residents and our environment.

“We will work with other bodies to end its use and work on safe and ecologically sound alternatives.”

“Since we set up the Environmental Task and Finish Group and declared the Climate Emergency in July 2019, we have been working on several projects to improve biodiversity, including The Colchester Woodland Project. This is one major step but should bring many benefits to our local wildlife.”

Exceptions will be made for some invasive plant species such as Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed, which can harm the biodiversity of areas.

Essex County Council still uses glyphosates on pavements a roadsides across the county.