OCR regulations and selecting contractors

The Amenity Forum explains why it’s important to have a strong grounds care policy and schedule.

Vegetation control plays a significant part in maintaining public spaces. Historically when there were residual herbicides to employ, local authorities would often use their own staff to apply these during the winter months prior to the seasonal tasks of mowing and maintaining open spaces.

In the light of weed control becoming a task that requires multiple applications of non-residual herbicide, these applications now need to be carried out during the growing season.

For the public sector, now more than ever, there is a great need to ensure that procurement processes deliver amenity contractors that are qualified, experienced, and fully compliant. Whilst in recent years the scoring matrices for such contracts have shifted towards quality rather that price, the advent of the Official Controls (Plant Protection Products) Regulations 2020 have elevated the need to secure compliant suppliers.

OCR Regulations

One of the primary objectives of the Official Controls Regulations (OCR) is to ensure that Plant Protection Products (PPPs) are used E F sustainably and in accordance with the conditions of use. There is a legal requirement for the following groups to register.

1. Businesses that produce, manufacture, process, import, store, distribute and sell PPPs, their components and adjuvants to be used with PPPs are subject to the 2020 regulations.

2. Any person or business that uses PPPs and any adjuvants in a professional capacity in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) are also subject to the 2020 Regulations, and therefore have a legal obligation to register.

3. Sellers of amateur PPPs are also subject to the 2020 Regulations and need to register by 22 June 2022. Amateur PPPs are not intended for professional use and amateur users do not need professional certification to apply them.

Amenity users

Amenity users are those who do professional work in gardening, landscaping or grounds maintenance or another role in an amenity setting such as in: schools; parks; sports grounds, including golf courses; public or private property; infrastructure, such as roads, railways and waterways; utilities, such as transport and water companies. Inspection visits have commenced, and enforcement officers are visiting both those that have registered, as well as businesses that should have done so before now.

PPP stores, application equipment and record keeping are all under scrutiny and those organisations that have non-compliance will be visible on the HSE website.

The Amenity Forum has fully supported the introduction of the OCR regulations, as safeguarding the future of PPPs is recognised as being critical to ensure that we can maintain our amenity spaces efficiently in the future. It is of course important to make clear that as a sector, the ongoing employment of sustainable practice is key to a well-maintained urban environment.

PPPs form only a part of the picture, as integrated management starts long before the need to apply such products. The design of our amenity spaces plays a huge role in facilitating the maintenance thereafter, avoiding areas that trap detritus, creating hard surfaces with contours that can be swept and choosing well suited materials all play a big part.

When however, weeds present, PPPs of course are tremendously useful in restoring the clean environment that we all want to see.

Invasive plants

Invasive plant control is another task that needs to be considered carefully. Given the high environmental and financial cost of mis-managing the likes of Japanese knotweed, it is crucial that programmes are well planned and competently implemented. So, the importance of selecting the right contractor to deliver these services is clear. A visit to the Amenity Forum website should prove to be a useful resource when looking to author procurement documents.

Members of the forum (a growing number of whom are local authorities) have access to a wealth of knowledge and advice. Currently there are updating days taking place in various locations where those attending can learn about legislative change, OCR inspection rollout as well as feedback their views and experience to help to inform future policymaking.

National Action Plan for the Sustainable use of Pesticides

As we anticipate the publication of the new National Action Plan for the Sustainable use of Pesticides (NAP) there has never been a more important time to ensure that the public sector engages with the highest quality contractors to achieve its aims. 

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