31 October 1997

Path spray plans result in confusion

PLANS to ban the spraying of pesticides on public rights of way have resulted in confusion and criticism.

The Health and Safety Executive has submitted an amendment to the green code of practice for the safe use of pesticides on farms, which aims to tighten guidelines on the spraying of footpaths.

The code, brought in under the 1990 Rights of Way Act, asked farmers not to over-spray footpaths. But the HSE argued that more was needed, highlighting a case where a walkers clothing was burnt by sulphuric acid sprayed on a potato crop. In another incident, a pet dogs mouth was blistered by chemicals applied to oilseed rape.

An HSE spokeswoman said instead of spraying, farmers should cut weeds to keep access clear.

But Helen Blenkhorn, Institute of Public Rights of Way president, said many landowners were unaware of the proposed changes. "We are very concerned about the serious implications for farmers and path users. Unfortunately, although the HSE proposed the ban in July 1996, many local councils are still telling farmers that spraying paths is an acceptable and safe practice.

"Even today, booklets freely available from the governments countryside commission list spraying paths as an acceptable and safe practice," she said