Towards an IWM Southwark

IWM stands for Integrated Weed Management, and is considered the most ecologically friendly and practical way to deal with plants popping up in unexpected places. It means land managers combine an increased tolerance for wild plants with mechanical and other non-chemical weed removal strategies. This enables the banning of glyphosate and other toxins, except as a highly controlled, last-resort measure. Southwark has already achieved this on its parklands for years– it is high time this policy is extended to management of estates, highways, and all its lands throughout the borough. SNAV, working in partnership with Trees for Bermondsey, Elmington Community Gardens, and supported by London Wildlife Trust and other local organisations, is asking Southwark to stop the regular use of glyphosate as soon as possible. Text of SNAV’s recent email to the councillors below:







Request for Integrated Weed Management on all Southwark lands

Dear Councillor Williams,

Southwark Nature Action Volunteers is a group of people who want to see a greener Southwark. 

We are writing to you about Southwark Council’s use of weedkillers– in particular, glyphosate. In 2021 Southwark used more than 1000 litres on streets and estates in the borough. We are asking for all the lands managed by Southwark– including housing, highways, and other properties– to employ an integrated weed management plan. Such a management plan would enable the ban of all chemical weedkillers, except as a highly controlled, last-resort measure. Southwark has already achieved this on its parklands, and it is high time this policy is extended to all its lands throughout the borough.

In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) identified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. 

In addition to being a danger to human health, weed-killing chemicals containing glyphosate and other herbicides are also detrimental to soil and insect biology.  For these reasons, we want you to shift to integrated weed management on all Southwark lands. 

We hope that you will be inspired by the project, “More than Weeds”, which aims to change perceptions of urban plants growing on walls, pavements and tree pits. Learning to live with these plants, which are often native wildflowers, will help urban biodiversity as well. 

In 2020, nearly all of the London Boroughs were rated for their use of weedkillers – and Southwark scored poorly with 2/5.

Hammersmith and Fulham scored 5/5. Their current weedkiller policy states that “all glyphosate weed killers are banned for use in Hammersmith & Fulham on council maintained land, with exceptions for use on Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed.”

We appreciate the progress that Southwark has made in the borough’s parks, but the climate and biodiversity crises demand new ways of working on all our public lands. We expect the council to adapt to this by swiftly moving to restrict the use of chemical weed killers in the whole of Southwark. 

This guide from Pan Action Network UK provides information on how councils can go pesticide free – 

and this report from The Wildlife Trusts shows how insect populations in urban areas can be helped (see “Insects in our Towns and Cities, p18)

This letter is also supported by a number of other groups working in Southwark who are concerned with human health, biodiversity, and the extinction crisis. Their names are listed below.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response. 

Yours sincerely,

Southwark Nature Action Volunteers


Trees for Bermondsey

London Wildlife Trust

Extinction Rebellion Southwark

Fossil Free Southwark

Rouel Blue Garden Club

Elmington Community Gardens

Friends of Burgess Park

Bricklayers Arms TRA

Brunswick Park TRA

Friends of Nursery Row Park

Friends of Surrey Square Park

Wilder City

Global Generation, Paper Garden

Brunswick Park TRA

2 thoughts on “Towards an IWM Southwark”

  1. Hi Southwark Nature Action Volunteers. Great to see this open letter to Southwark Councillors and really pleased to see that you found my survey of council’s use of herbicide useful.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      Thank you so much for posting your research. I hope it is ok we used it – hopefully it will help motivate Southwark to take action!

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