THE definition of the word ‘weed’ is an interesting one.

Most established dictionaries acknowledge that it’s a wild plant, a living organism or something which embodies the properties of life.

Yet on the other hand, this natural creation is defined as something that is unwanted, or that it is in competition with more desirable, cultivated plants.

The second part of this definition has been familiar to us for decades. Weeds are associated with unruly growth and neglect in gardens and in public spaces.

The district’s towns and villages are no stranger to success in Northumbria in Bloom, and Hexham even won the town award in the national Britain in Bloom awards, back in 2005.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that Hexham Town Council rightly takes a pride in the appearance of it’s picturesque and historic town. But do weeds have a role to play in Hexham’s future?

Last week, the town council came under fire from one of its own members for the use of a potentially toxic weed killer in streets, parks, and cemeteries.

In fairness to the council, it had already started discussing the possible removal of a repellent containing glysopate, a chemical substance which has been linked to cancer, which can have an adverse effect on wildlife.

At last week’s town council meeting, which took place via video conference, a proposal from Coun. Tom Gillanders, to phase out the weed killer with a view to finding a more suitable alternative was a prominent matter on the agenda.

However, Coun. John Ord called for the substance to be banned immediately, claiming its continued use was “contributing to the death of humanity”.

Coun. Ord also promoted the growth of wild plants and flowers, stating that they were essential to the ecosystem.

The town council is now set on a swift phase-out scheme, but what options does it have? Last year, councils in London, Norfolk, and Merseyside all proactively sought alternatives after a US court ordered the manufacturer of a leading weed killer brand to pay one user the equivalent of £61m, after he developed cancer.

Members of the campaign group Extinction Rebellion Tynedale are keen to see swift action in Hexham. Among them is Nick Morphet, who ran as a Green Party candidate at last year’s General Election.

He said: “It’s great that Hexham Town Council has agreed to phase out glyphosate. Not only is it probably carcinogenic to humans, it is also harmful to wildlife. Aquatic life is harmed when it runs into our watercourses, earthworm populations in the soil below decline dramatically, and bee populations are affected both directly and indirectly, when the flowers upon which they feed are eliminated.”

Mr Morphet said that non-chemical alternatives could be just as effective, and were comparable in terms of cost. He also said that weeds were an essential part of a healthy environment, and suggested they could be seen as beautiful and fascinating, if allowed to grow in appropriate places.

He added: “Should we be killing these plants at all? We call them weeds after making a value judgement which is often based upon their appearance. Unless there is a very good reason to control them, they should be cherished and allowed to thrive.”

Hexham Space 4 Nature is a volunteer-led project which works closely with local author, organisations, and residents, to find space for nature in parks, verges and gardens.