Contractors sprayed weedkiller around a Midlothian primary school, despite a council pledge to make it a no-go area amid concern over the use of glyphosate in the community.
Danderhall and District Guerrilla Gardeners became the first community group to enter talks with Midlothian Council to adopt its green spaces rather than allow the use of the toxic weedkiller in the area’s streets.
However, despite a pledge by the council not to spray in areas the group identified for adopting, members were horrified to see workers out tackling weeds around Danderhall Primary School last week.
The local authority said that the work had been authorised by the primary school’s contractors Heron, who were unaware of the agreement.
A council spokesperson said: “The main contractor of the new school and hub at Danderhall subcontracted work to finish the soft landscaping.
“The subcontractor used weedkiller, unaware of the council decision not to do so in this area.
“The council has since intervened and the subcontractor has stopped the spraying and is in the process of removing the treated weeds.”
Midlothian Council suspended the use of weedkiller, which has been at the centre of claims it has a devastating impact on wildlife including bumblebees and butterflies, two years ago.
A meeting last month, however, saw councillors vote to allow it to be reintroduced in restricted areas.
The meeting was told that the ban had been lifted during the Covid pandemic but it was claimed that council workers had gone on a “killing spree” when they were allowed to use it again, spraying wildflower beds and private gardens.
A report on weedkiller options suggested local communities could be allowed to adopt green spaces and maintain them themselves if they wanted to stop glyphosate being used in their streets.
And the Danderhall group became the first to take up the proposal, holding talks with the local authority and working to meet the requirements to adopt the land.
A spokesperson for the group, which has nearly 100 volunteers helping to clear weeds manually and is growing every week, said it was working with the council to become the first community to adopt its green spaces.
However, it was understood that while the map was being drawn up, no glyphosate would be used in the area.
The group has launched its own Facebook page and local children have been leafleting thousands of homes in Danderhall and neighbouring communities urging support for a pesticide-free zone.
Local businesses are also displaying posters in their windows backing the campaign.
They were stunned by the arrival of sprayers at the school last week.
A spokesperson for the group said that the weedkiller had been sprayed along the boundary fences of the school where young children played, and calls were made to the council as soon as they became aware to halt the work.
One volunteer said: “The primary one and nursery children were playing around the fencing where the weedkiller was being sprayed.
“They’ve been told to go out and lift all the affected weeds.”
The group has been organising volunteer groups to go out on Sundays to weed areas of the community manually as they take over management of the streets, and others have been out daily carrying out the work.
Details of how to get involved and upcoming events can be found on their Facebook page.
By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp