Control of unwanted vegetation

Like most other councils, we use glyphosate in a limited and controlled fashion to tackle particularly challenging weeds and vegetation issues. This is used largely along roadways, and to a lesser degree in some public spaces and park areas where few other options exist.

We have pledged to investigate a range of alternatives following public concerns about the use of this chemical. There have been questions over its potential effects on health and the environment. We want to assess the performance, practicality and cost of introducing other methods.

We have already introduced rewilding to many verges and park areas. The project involves a new approach to grass cutting, where we allow areas to grow naturally, which is beneficial to wildlife. You can read more about the rewilding project.

Control of unwanted vegetation trial

We are launching a year-long trial of weed control alternatives, in a bid to reduce the use of glyphosate.

The trial, which starts on 9 May, will take place in south Reading. It will include 5 stretches of Northumberland Avenue, including two parks – Rabson’s Recreation Ground and Cintra Park.

The alternatives we are exploring include:

  • acetic acid (vinegar)
  • fatty acid (pelargonic acid which occurs naturally in plants and animals and is found in many foods)
  • weed removal by hand
  • thermal methods including steam and hot water
  • Leaving an area without any form of control

We will treat part of the stretch with Glyphosate as a control to compare how effective the other treatments are.

We are keen to hear what residents think of the different methods. The vinegar, for example, has a short-lived strong smell which some people may find unpleasant. There may also be more weed cover than in previous years.

If you live or work along Northumberland Avenue, please don’t treat or remove any vegetation from outside of your property. It could influence the results of the trial.

Tell us what you think

We’d like to hear what residents think of the alternative methods we are exploring. Tell us what you think using parks@reading.gov.uk or via our social media channels @ReadingCouncil twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Vegetation/Weed Control Q&A

Where will the trial take place?

The trial will take place along the following areas of Northumberland Avenue:

  • Cintra Park – steam
  • Christchurch Gardens to Hexham Road – pelargonic acid
  • Hexham Road to Buckland Road – steam and hot water
  • Buckland Road to Honiton Road – hand removal
  • Honiton to Hartland – glyphosate
  • Rabson’s Recreation Ground – steam and hot water
  • Hartland Road to Whitley Wood – acetic acid

Will the other methods be as effective as glyphosate in controlling weeds?

The amount of weed cover you see in the roads may be more than in previous years. This is likely when reducing the amount of glyphosate we use. Our trial will show how effective the other methods are in comparison to glyphosate.

We need to achieve the right balance reducing glyphosate against increased weed cover. We are aware that weed cover can create a perception of neglect and environmental degradation. It also has the potential to damage infrastructure.

How does the council currently use glyphosate?

We are safe and controlled in our use of glyphosate. We dilute it in a carrier solution and apply it using a droplet method. We are completely confident this method of application poses no threat to residents, pets or wildlife.

The use of Glyphosate is currently licenced for use in the UK until 15 December 2025. But, it is not clear whether the licence will be extended beyond this date.

Will the council completely stop the use of glyphosate?

No one method can replace glyphosate. We’d need to use a combination of methods, for example, we can’t use the steam and hot water method in areas of on-street parking.

We can reduce glyphosate use to a minimum, but in the short to medium term we cannot completely stop using it.

Will introducing new methods of weed control cost more or less than glyphosate?

To switch to alternative methods has a significant budget impact for the council. It could mean a rise from £60K a year to over £260K.