A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Weedfree's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Weedfree is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Managing Director Richard Stow
Managing our amenity areas,
pavements, parks, open spaces and
transport networks is essential
Weedfree Limited has been working in the amenity sector
for over 50 years. Employing 100 multiskilled staff,
they attend to the seasonal requirements of the UK’s
transport links and their associated amenities. Whether they are
tackling weeds, trees, leaves, snow or ice, their teams are at work
around the clock, 365 days of the year. Managing Director Richard
Stow tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the role companies like
his play and offers a further insight into the sector he operates in.
Imagine how your garden would look if you neglected it for one or two years.
Now imagine your local park, golf course, railway station or high street if it were
returned to nature for the same length of time. Of course, this would never
happen, but if left untended, your local amenities would soon become unusable,
dangerous and unpleasant places, certainly not safe or healthy
Our approach
Most of our work is completed on railways and highways, but we also ensure that
pavements, high streets and parks are kept clear of unwanted vegetation. During
the spring and summer, weeds are our principal focus, and we help maintain a
weed-free rail network so that trains run on time.
Autumn, as one might guess, is all about leaves. The UK rail network can be severely
impaired if leaves are not managed, so we provide operators to man Network Rail’s
fleets of railhead treatment trains. When winter comes around, we apply de-icer,
clear snow and grit the surfaces we all walk on. In addition to our seasonal work, we
provide support services to our clients all year round. Theseservices include railway
protection staff, railway competent labour, waste removal and waterdeliveries.
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1967
»Based in Yorkshire
»Services: Environmental
support services
»No. of employees: 65
»Weedfree doubles its
workforce for the busy
autumn period
Highlighting best practice
Challenges in the sector
In recent years there has been an
emotive push towards non-pesticide
weed management, driven largely
by the negative media portrayal of
Roundup, Glyphosate and Monsanto.
This has led to more expensive,
high-carbon alternative weed control
methods, including hot water, hot
foam, brushing and even hand pulling.
While this initiative is lucrative for
weed control companies such as
Weedfree Limited, sustainable it is
not. For example, there’s a London
borough whose pavements we have
applied herbicides to for many years,
maintaining a safe walking surface
devoid of tripping hazards and
ensuring the integrity of the hard
surface infrastructure. In the past, this
was completed by a single operator
using a specialist weed spray machine.
It took six weeks to undertake
three applications throughout the
The borough in question has banned
Glyphosate and now uses hot water.
Hot-water weed control does not
require any herbicides, but it is slow,
labour-intensive and resource-heavy.
What previously took one operator
six weeks now takes six operators six
weeks. Like painting the Forth Bridge,
as soon as the first application is
completed, the teams start over again.
Apply this model to the whole of the
UK and expenses would mount quickly
– and all because of the negative
media hype surrounding one of the
safest herbicide molecules ever.
The amenity sector, unlike agriculture,
does not currently have its own
assurance standard. This means that
anybody can apply pesticides with
little to no risk of being penalised
for not being compliant with current
legislation. As an active member of
the Amenity Forum – the key voice for
our sector – I often hear it being said
at meetings that the law has no teeth
when it comes to the amenity use
ofpesticides. The Forum is developing
an Assured Standard for our sector and
it is important all get behind it, both
to give the public assurance of the
professional standards of operations
and to drive out unqualified operators.
It is understood that huge quantities
of pesticide are applied to crops within
agriculture, and it is right that this
pesticide usage is strictly controlled.
The amenity sector applies pesticides
where the general public walk, travel
and spend their leisure time, and
the public need to be assured that
these applications are undertaken by
professionally qualified operators such
as Weedfree and those supporting the
Amenity Forum.
As an industry, the sector relies on
the specifiers and those ordering the
Hot-water weed
control: a labour-
intensive and resource-
heavy alternative to
conventional herbicides
In recent years
there has
been an
emotive push
towards non-
Our vision is to be the number-one privately owned national
environmental support services company operating out of multiple
regional depots throughout the entirecountry.
Our mission is to provide an environment where every member of our
team can learn, progress and realise their full potential so that we
have a positive, optimistic and engaged team who can deliver to the
highest standards.
Our core values are service, success, fun, teamwork, fairness, honesty,
openness and respect.
works to ensure works are delivered
in accordance with current legislation.
In many cases, this is simply not done
where companies are engaged to apply
pesticides, often without a proper
understanding of the legal position.
Then there are companies such as ours
who invest in training, compliance,
assurance schemes and membership of
trade and sector bodies.
Without a body such as the HSE being
prepared to penalise, the amenity
sector is never going to raise its
profile to a level where it’s considered
important and essential, rather than
a low-value service that is delivered
by whoever provides the lowest price.
Unless changes are made, there will be
a race to the bottom, and the loser will
be our environment.
Brexit is a difficult problem for us,
especially concerning labour and
exports and imports. Weedfree does
not export goods or services, so we will
not be directly affected by any issues
concerning tariffs, access to the single
market or trade agreements. However,
our suppliers might – which could
affect the prices for goods and services
that we buy in. Any cost increases that
Weedfree experiences will, naturally,
be passed on to our clients.
The long-term inflationary impact is
hard to predict, but in the short-term
it will be business as usual. We do,
however, anticipate disruption to
imports, at least during the immediate
period following Britain’s withdrawal
from the EU. Uncertainty concerning
border control and customs checks
poses a real risk that goods will be
delayed or even unavailable for an
unknown period of time.
Our main imports are pesticides, most
of which are processed within the
EU. We are already in conversation
with our suppliers to ensure we had
sufficient stock within our own stores
well in advance of Brexit. We normally
keep one month of stock within our
store, which equates to approximately
3,000 litres of pesticide. We have
capacity to store 13,000 litres, which
will allow us to operate without further
deliveries for at least four months after
any Brexit.
We employ a significant number
of temporary employees between
October and December to deliver
our Network Rail autumn mitigation
contracts. Many of these temporary
employees are European Economic
Area citizens. We do not foresee
any long-term issues with our ability
to re-employ our current temporary
employees; however, we expect
the migrant and temporary worker
population to decrease post-Brexit.
This has already been seen in
agriculture and will likely affect the
rail industry in a similar way, as many
temporary and agency rail workers are
EEA citizens. On the other hand, it is
predicted that the UK’s unemployment
rate will likely increase to 6.5 per cent
due to recession post-Brexit. With this
amount of uncertainty, it is very hard
to put in place contingencies. We’re
aware that there may potentially be
an issue employing temporary workers
for the 2019 autumn season, so we
will be embarking on our recruitment
campaign in good time to ensure
we have the required workforce in
readiness for the next leaf-fall season.
We expect the
migrant and
population to
decrease post-
Maintaining Weedfree rail
and transport networks
Autumn is our busiest
period, with thousands
of tonnes of leaves
falling on the UK rail


This article was sponsored by Weedfree. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster