WIRRAL Council is testing a new method to avoid the use of a chemical which has been linked to cancer.

The authority's weed control contractor Man Coed is trialling 'manual weeding' in Wallasey, Prenton and Moreton, in an effort to phase out the use of glyphosate in the borough.

The method involves using tools such as hoes and trowels to scrape weeds off pavements and roads and can be time-consuming.

Currently, manual weeding trials are only taking place when glyphosate spraying is not possible due to rain or high winds.

But Cllr Liz Grey, Wirral Council's cabinet member for the environment, hopes it will become part of a suite of measures to markedly reduce the use of glyphosate.

In July 2019, Wirral Council voted to phase out the use of glyphosate, amid much research linking the chemical to cancer in humans.

But the chemical's use on Hoylake Beach caused uproar just weeks later, with national figures including Dragons Den TV star Deborah Meaden and environmental journalist George Monbiot tweeting their disgust.

Last year, a US jury found the chemical was a "substantial factor" in causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 70-year-old Edwin Hardeman.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, concluded that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans".

However, the US Environmental Protection Agency insists it is safe when used carefully.

EU countries did vote to renew glyphosate’s licence in 2017 but the tide is now turning, with Germany pledging to ban the chemical by 2023.

While glyphosate spraying has since stopped on Hoylake Beach, Wirral Council has been unable to avoid using the chemical for weeding the borough’s streets.

The local authority has tried to use steam and foam to get around the problem, but this has not worked.

But Wirral Council said the manual weeding method is producing “great results” in some of the trial areas.

Cllr Grey said: "We are taking the phasing-out of glyphosate very seriously and this is just part of our plans.

"It's a trial and, if successful, it could be rolled out across Wirral alongside other measures to reduce chemical use."

The Labour councillor said volunteers were also part of the strategy to reduce Wirral’s reliance on glyphosate, with a plan for the council to support volunteers to carry out manual weeding across the borough currently being looked at.

Cllr Grey added: "The manual weeding by Man Coed is a really efficient use of time on days when the weather would prevent spraying anyway, so it's hopefully not as slow going as it might at first appear.

"I'm really grateful for all the support that so many residents have shown for our efforts to get rid of dangerous chemicals from our streets and alleyways."