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Using herbicides

We have changed how we regulate the use of herbicides Please see below for details, our herbicide guidance document can be found here

There are legal rules on the use of herbicides. Before using herbicides, you should consider all other ways of controlling weeds. If you require advice on the appropriate management of invasive non-native species, you can contact NRW and ask to speak to one of our BASIS- trained officers.

If you then decide it is appropriate to use herbicide, we need to be sure that it is used properly, in line with the product label, and by suitably qualified people.

Agreement from NRW is required if using herbicides in the following situations:

  • Using herbicides adjacent (within 5m) to a waterbody* or within a waterbody
  • Using herbicides within a designated site (ie Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area, Ramsar),

* a waterbody is any body of water such as a lake, pond, ditch, stream, river etc.

We offer two types of herbicide agreements; low risk and higher risk.

Low risk agreements

You may be able to use herbicides without sending in an application to us, but only if your activity is low risk.

If your activity meets all of the criteria below then it is classed as low risk:

  • herbicide is to be used near water, but not actually in or on water. For example you intend to use herbicide along the top of a river bank, but not within the channel
  • the treatment location is not within a designated site (Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area or Ramsar)
  • the treatment location is not within 1 kilometre of a drinking water abstraction point and not within 500 meters of any other type of licenced water abstraction point

If you’re unsure whether you can meet these low risk criteria, you can use our herbicide location screening service – see ‘Checking your location’, below.

You must also ensure that:

  • The manufacturers’ instructions and the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 are complied with
  • Spraying is carried out in the correct conditions, as detailed in the Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products, and kept to a minimum
  • The product must be approved for aquatic use. This will be stated in the crops/situations part of the label. If you are unsure of whether the herbicide you want to use is approved for aquatic use, you can search the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) database. The database includes details of withdrawn products and their replacements
  • No other product (eg an adjuvant) is used, unless it is approved for use in or near water
  • Care is taken to avoid the potential contamination of any nearby surface water or wetlands
  • In general, you should not use long lasting pesticides and pesticides that can spread within any area designated as a ‘source protection zone’ (SPZ) 1, or within 50 metres of a spring, well or borehole
  • No other legal water interests, including private water supplies, are affected
  • The treatment must be carried out by a person that holds the relevant NPTC or LANTRA certificate of competence, or under the direct supervision of someone who holds the relevant NPTC certificate of competence. You can find more information on certificates of competence in the Agreement to use herbicides in or near water – guidance note

If you can meet the low risk criteria and abide by the standards set out above, you can assume we automatically approve the activity.

Higher risk agreements

If you cannot meet the low risk location criteria or standards, you must apply for a higher risk agreement.

Higher risk activities are where:

  • you plan to use herbicides to control aquatic weeds in or on water
    and/or
  • the treatment location is within a designated site (Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area or Ramsar),
    and/or
  • the treatment location is within 1 kilometre of a drinking water abstraction point or 500 meters of any other type of licenced water abstraction point

If your activity meets any of the above criteria, you must complete the higher risk herbicide application form and return it to us at the address below. You should read the Agreement to use herbicides in or near water – guidance note before you apply.

Checking your location

If you are unsure whether you can meet the low risk location criteria we can help you. We offer an herbicide location screening service. 

Please note we cannot tell you the precise location of some water abstractions. We can only tell you if the screening report returned results within the relevant distance.

Our location screening will not identify private water abstractions. These abstractions are registered with local authorities. See the ‘Frequently asked questions about herbicide agreements’, below, for more information on private water abstractions.

You can find information on designated sites on the Welsh Government information portal, Lle.

Please email us your request for herbicide location screening service. You must include details of the site location (ie a 12 digit national grid reference), and the full treatment area. We will always try to respond within 10 working days of receiving a request. If this is not possible, we will let you know.

Where to send your high risk application

Send your completed application form and all relevant supporting information:

By email, to: permitreceiptcentre@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk Use ‘Herbicide high risk agreement application’ in the email title.

By post, to: Permit Receipt Centre, Natural Resources Wales, 29 Newport Road, Cambria House, Cardiff, CF24 0TP

If you know you want to use herbicide during spring and summer, we ask that you submit your application the winter before. We receive low numbers of applications during winter. This means we can then process your agreement more quickly, and in plenty of time for you to start spraying.

Managing the impact of spraying, upon Honey bees

You should contact the National Bee Unit or the Welsh Beekeepers Association to ensure your proposed activities will not adversely impact local Honey Bee populations. 

Information on the potential impact upon Honey Bees from herbicides, can be found in the Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products. The Code states that you should inform beekeepers or the local spray liaison officer, 48 hours before applying pesticides at times of year when bees are at risk or if a particular pesticide specifically harms bees. This gives beekeepers time to take any necessary precautions.

Aerial spraying of pesticides and herbicides

The Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD), part of the Health and Safety Executive, is responsible for issuing aerial application permits to anyone applying pesticides from an aircraft.     

If you need to apply for one of these permits, we can help you by providing map based information, on request. This information can help you complete the required site based risk assessment. Please email us your request for aerial herbicide spraying map service. You must include details of the site location (ie a 12 digit national grid reference), and the full treatment  area. We will always try to respond within 10 working days of receiving a request. If this is not possible, we will let you know. 

Frequently asked questions about herbicide agreements

Q: Do all types of herbicide use need agreement from NRW?

No. Agreement from NRW is only required if the herbicide is to be used:

-adjacent to or in water

- within a designated site (Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area, Ramsar).

-on NRW-managed land

Q: What is a low risk herbicide agreement?

This is a simpler and quicker way to get our agreement to use herbicides, in certain circumstances, and does not require the submission of an application form. It is only available to activities that meet specific criteria as set out above, and are carried out in line with the required standards. Any activity that cannot meet the low risk criteria is considered higher risk.

Q: What is a higher risk herbicide agreement?

These are all herbicide treatment activities that cannot meet our low risk criteria. They involve using herbicide in more sensitive locations. We need to ensure suitable measures are taken to protect the environment. Customers must send in an application form for a high risk herbicide agreement. Please note: these were previously referred to as ‘Complex’ Agreements.

Q: Are all herbicide agreements automatic?

No. Only activities which are low risk are ‘automatically’ agreed. You must be certain that you meet the low risk location criteria and standards. If not, you still need to apply for a higher risk agreement.

Q: Does Natural Resources Wales still offer a free plant/weed identification service?

Yes. If you need to identify the plants you want to treat, we can help. Talk to one of our Biodiversity officers based in your local area, to arrange sample identification. Please do not send samples to our Permit Receipt Centre or to our central address.

Q: What is a private water supply?

A private water supply is any drinking water supply which is not provided by a water company. The source of the supply may be a spring, well, borehole or surface water (streams, lakes, etc). A supply may serve a single dwelling, several properties or commercial or public premises.

Q: Where can I find information about private water supplies?

Local Authorities are legally required to maintain registers of private water supplies in their area. Contact the Environmental Health department of the relevant Local Authority.

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