Problems with plants, trees, weeds and grass

We do the following work as part of our normal activities:

  • cut grass verges in spring and summer
  • cut hedges between October and February
  • spray weeds 3 times: in late-spring, mid-summer and late summer to autumn

Grass cutting

If a grass verge is longer than you think it should be, we might be about to cut it. There is a grass cutting programme and this may be one of the last verges to be done. We may also be holding off while there are flowers growing.

We may encounter some delays to our programme, which can be due to several factors, such as the weather, the number of teams we have available to cut the grass, a build-up of litter or longer grass which takes more time to cut.

Week commencing 5 June

  • Beighton
  • Beauchief
  • Dore
  • Stocksbridge
  • Stannington
  • East Ecclesfield
  • West Ecclesfield

Week commencing 12 June

  • Birley
  • Graves Park
  • Ecclesall
  • Firth Park
  • Southey
  • Crookes
  • Broomhill

Week commencing 19 June

  • Burngreave
  • Shiregreen
  • Hillsborough
  • Mosborough
  • Woodhouse
  • Manor
  • Nether Edge

Week commencing 26 June

  • Arbourthorne
  • Darnall
  • Gleadless
  • Richmond
  • Central
  • Walkley
  • Fulwood

Leaf clearance

Our programme of leaf clearance focuses primarily on areas of the city with higher tree density to try to remove the bulk of leaves before they become a problem. It is dependent on the weather and the amount of leaves that need removing at each location.

We work to the government's code of practice for litter and refuse, which doesn’t require us to remove freshly fallen leaves. However, if leaves begin to mulch down and become a safety hazard in any areas across Sheffield, you can report them to us.

If you are at home and hear the street sweeper arrive on your street, it would be useful if you could move your car out of the way temporarily so that we can carry out an unobstructed clean.

Please do not sweep or blow leaves out of your garden into the highway as this can lead to blocked drains and increase the risk of flooding. 

Our programme of leaf clearance ended in February 2023 and will begin again in Autumn 2023.

Trees and hedges

Trees and hedges are the responsibility of the person who owns the land. Whilst most roadside trees are maintained by Streets Ahead hedges are not usually our responsibility, although some in rural areas they are.

The Highways Act 1980 (section 130) places a duty on us to remove obstructions on the highway. In some cases, if a tree or hedge is growing into the highway, we may write to you and ask that you cut it back. If the landowner fails to do this, then they can be taken to court or we can do the work and bill them. This only happens in rare circumstances when no other approach has been successful.

In some instances, we may need to remove overhanging trees or hedges at short notice without giving prior notice to the landowner. However, we expect that this would only occur where the vegetation poses a safety risk or prevents urgent work being carried out on the highway.

If a tree we own interferes with a phone line or electricity cable you need to contact the relevant utility company. If you have concerns about the safety of the tree, please contact us.

We are not required to remove trees or prune them if complaints are received about falling fruit or bird mess.


We aim to keep the following weed free:

  • perimeters of buildings
  • shrub and rose beds
  • the base of hedges that belong to Sheffield Homes
  • channels and edges of roads and footpaths
  • obstacles in verges and along the bottom of railings

Glyphosate is currently the most efficient product for killing weeds whilst being cost effective and easy to apply. 

In August 2021, a decision was taken by the Council’s Co-operative Executive to review and reduce the use of glyphosate on land managed by us in a controlled and targeted way. This means in 2022 our usage of this product is expected to be significantly reduced.

In order to keep the frequency and amount of glyphosate used as low as possible on highway areas, we only spray weeds on a reactive basis once the weed has physically emerged, so we never spray proactively.

Our use of Glyphosate

Why we use glyphosate

Whilst we continue to look for alternatives to using glyphosate, it's currently approved for use in the UK until December 2025 and there is a section about this on the HSE website. The UK has a rigorous approvals process for weed killers. Legally enforceable conditions of use are imposed on the way products can be applied, to ensure the public are not exposed to harmful levels. The risks associated with the use of weed killers in parks and on the highway are considered as part of the authorisation process.

We have a legal obligation to manage certain species of weeds under the Weeds Act 1959 as well as a legal requirement under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for managing invasive species.

Under Section 41 Highways Act 1980 we have a duty to maintain the public highway, and effectively manage any hazards that may cause a member of the public to trip or fall.

The responsible use of weed killers can help deliver substantial benefits for society including management of conservation areas, invasive species and flood risks; access to high quality sporting facilities; and safe public spaces, industrial sites and transport infrastructure. 

We try to minimise the amount of glyphosate we use by using Controlled Droplet Application (CDA) systems which only apply a tiny amount of glyphosate in a very controlled manner to the leaves of the plant. We never blanket spray Glyphosate as it's not a preventative weed killer so only works on actively growing weeds which are already emerging and green.

Our operatives use heavily diluted glyphosate with a significant amount of added water. They also use ultra-low-drift nozzles to deliver the spray in a controlled manner, and all spraying equipment used is subject to routine testing to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible.   

Impact on humans and pets

In wider society glyphosate is extensively used in food production, such as in wheat crops for bread and breakfast cereals and is approved for use in food production by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which stated that glyphosate is ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.’

We acknowledge that there is great deal of concern nationally over the World Health Organization’s cancer agency (IARC) declaring that glyphosate is a ‘probable human carcinogen’ – meaning it could potentially cause cancer. The conclusion was based on observational studies, animal studies and test tube studies.

The current WHO classification of risk of cancer to humans from using glyphosate is in the same category as someone eating red meat or working night shifts, something many people routinely do in their everyday lives without thinking twice.  

When glyphosate is used appropriately, in line with the label recommendations and utilising safe working practices, national specialist and regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive are confident that glyphosate is both safe and efficacious.

Play areas and hospitals

We do not carry out glyphosate treatments in the close vicinity of healthcare facilities or play areas. 

How we are reducing glyphosate use

To keep the frequency and amount of glyphosate used as low as possible on highway areas, we only spray weeds on a reactive basis once the weed has physically emerged, so we never spray proactively.

This is currently done three times per year using controlled droplet application (CDA) technology to prevent spray drift and using the absolute minimum amount of product possible to achieve results.

We are currently in the process of compiling a joint glyphosate reduction strategy, which will be published in 2022. This will detail our plans to reduce the use of Glyphosate, setting out several new commitments for the 2022 season.

As part of this reduction strategy, our Highways Maintenance Division (HMD) has already stopped using glyphosate in shrub beds, floral displays, rose beds, hedgerows and planted areas as well as stopping mowing strip spraying in highways verges. By the end of 2022, HMD has also committed to:

  • a review and trial of any new alternative products as they come to market and become licensed for hard surfaces
  • switching to a single application of Flazasulfuron on soft surfaces (such as grass verges under street signs and around lamp columns) next year rather than our current practice of applying Glyphosate three or four times.
  • delivering 'weed killer free' alternate methodologies such as wider use of our weed ripper machine and other mechanical sweepers
  • encouraging residents to pull weeds out on their street to help further reduce usage on the highway
  • trialling a ‘glyphosate free’ area in Brincliffe, Sheffield, where no chemical-based weed killers will be used during 2022, whilst consulting with residents via Citizenspace to assess and review impact and feedback

Housing Services have committed to:

  • undertaking two glyphosate free trials in the Longley and Gleadless areas – exact details to be discussed and agreed

Parks and Countryside have committed to:

  • undertaking glyphosate free trials in two cemeteries (Norton and Beighton) in 2022
  • not using glyphosate on permeable surfaces from November 2021 (grassed areas, shrub and flower beds, hedgerows, around trees and obstacles, hardcore paths with the exception of treating invasive weeds and tree stumps)

Removal of weeds by hand

Whilst we do adopt hand pulling weeds in some specific settings, this approach is very time consuming and financially unviable to use across the entire city. Weeds must be removed from the root to ensure they are effectively destroyed and so, each weed must be dug out carefully before pulling.

Alternative products to Glyphosate we have tried

Amey, our Highways Maintenance Department and Parks Department have all jointly trialled a number of alternative products and methodologies over the course of the last two years, including hot foam treatment (ie Foamstream), heat treatment, weed ripping using our weed ripper machine and some degree of hand weeding.

In addition to weed spraying, we employ completely chemical-free options such as a fleet of small sweepers which remove silt and debris three times per year, a mechanical ‘weed ripper’ and teams dedicated to 'siding out' footpath edges. Some alternative methods, such as not treating perimeters of parks and open spaces, adding meadows, and additional tree planting to further encourage habitat and biodiversity, are also being explored. 

We will carry out further trials in 2022, in conjunction with Foamstream, to assess the efficacy of the latest version of their chemical free treatment method.

How other products and methods compare to glyphosate

At present, many of the main chemical alternatives to glyphosate are not licensed or legal to use on hard surfaces such as pavements, which makes them unsuitable for use on the highway network.

During 2020 we trialled Acetic Acid, Pelargonic Acid and Flazasulfuron alongside traditional glyphosate treatments solely on verges on a major road in Sheffield to assess their ability to control weeds in these areas.

The Flazasulfuron treatment was incredibly effective and one single application produced outstanding weed control for the full year from a single application. Pelargonic Acid and Acetic Acid have both shown poor results, in many instances promoting growth rather than killing off the intended vegetation when compared to the untreated control areas (ie areas which were not treated with any weed killer at all to see what natural growing conditions like).

We plan to undertake further trials of Foamstream in 2022 on hard surfaces such as pavements.

Where glyphosate is sourced from

Our glyphosate is sourced through a tendering process. The current suppliers are Rigby Taylor, Sherriff Amenity and Nomix.

Amount of glyphosate used

Our Highway Maintenance Division used a total of 3570.95 litres of glyphosate-based product during 2020. For highway operations, these products are purchased as ready mixed, ready diluted controlled droplet application (CDA) products containing significant volumes of both water, adjuvant and carrier, so this figure does not represent 'neat' chemical use of glyphosate.

Parks and Public Realm services used a total of 124,2kg of glyphosate (as an active ingredient) during 2020.

Bereavement Services used 640 litres of Blade herbicide, which contains glyphosate, in 16 cemeteries during 2020. It's an oil-based herbicide applied as a droplet through a battery-operated lance.

Housing currently holds approximately 40 litres of glyphosate which is predominately used on hard surfaces ie footpaths.

What will you do if Glyphosate is banned

We are proactively working towards achieving a significant reduction in our glyphosate use across all our services for 2022. 

Once finalised, our Glyphosate Reduction Strategy will outline how we will continue to reduce glyphosate use and explore and implement alternative methods.

To date, chemical alternatives to glyphosate have shown limited success rates with the exception of Flazasulfuron. However, like almost all other chemical-based alternatives currently on the market, this are not licensed for use on hard surfaces such as footpaths. Should glyphosate be banned in the UK, we would need to adopt the methods and alternatives which are showing the most promising and effective outcomes.

During this period of reducing glyphosate and trialling alternatives, you may notice changes to the amount or size of weeds in your neighbourhood. 

Treatment of invasive weeds and tree stumps

For invasive weeds, such as Japanese Knotweed, we will still need to use glyphosate and will apply this using the stem injection method to reduce and control the application. 

The only other current alternative is to dig 8 to 10 metre deep holes and then take all of the soil to specialist disposal sites which incurs huge costs and creates hazards on the highway. This method would also be disruptive to wildlife in the area and have a much larger carbon footprint compared to spraying.  

For tree stumps we use 'eco plugs' which are sealed, self-contained glyphosate plugs which are hammered into the stump, eliminating the risk of spray drift or product leaching.

Environmental impact of using alternative methods of weed management

Currently, many of the chemical alternatives to glyphosate are not licensed for use on hard surfaces such as pavements and roads, whilst their impact on nature, waterways and the environment are fully studied, assessed and understood by the relevant regulatory bodies. 

Other alternatives such as FoamStream use large volumes of water requiring additional generators and vehicles. Options such as mechanical weed ripping can be detrimental as they can be abrasive to the road surface and break it away prematurely.

Norton Nursery

We provide floral decorations from our Norton Nursery.

It has a reputation for providing high quality flower displays on sponsorship sites or to enhance the look of shops, offices and buildings, including floral towers, baskets and plant troughs.

It also offers a full back up service of watering, feeding and dead plant replacement.

Landscape design

We design shrub and tree planting schemes to complement new buildings or enhance the look of existing sites.

Design schemes are individually tailored and include shrubs that flower at different times of the year, trees, evergreens and plants with varied foliage to provide seasonal interest, grassed areas and hard landscaping.

Please phone Norton Nursery on 0114 274 9654.

Contact Streets Ahead

Floor 2
Howden House
1 Union Street
S1 2SH

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