A charity has launched a campaign to make London the first city in the UK to ban toxic pesticides in public spaces.

Pesticide-Free London was launched yesterday by the charity Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK).

Ahead of the London local elections on May 3, PAN UK is asking candidates across all political parties to pledge to make their borough free from pesticides.

Josie Cohen, head of policy and campaigns at PAN UK, said: “London likes to think of itself as a world leader but is really lagging behind other major cities, such as Toronto, Edinburgh and New York when it comes to protecting residents and wildlife from harmful chemicals.

“We urge everyone standing in the local council election to take our pesticide-free pledge. PAN UK is keen to work with all London councils to help design bespoke strategies for moving away from pesticides.”

By agreeing to the pledge, candidates would be committing to at least two of a set of activities to try and make their borough pesticide free.

Examples of these activities include communicating with members of the public to go pesticide free and organising a full council debate on the subject.

The charity says toxic pesticides are currently sprayed in public spaces such as parks, playgrounds, housing estates and pavements and the have a devastating effect on London’s natural environment.

Ms Cohen added: “Most Londoners don’t realise that their local council uses a huge amount of toxic pesticides. We’re surrounded by these chemicals every day despite evidence of the significant harm they can cause to our health and the environment.”

Recent polling conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research revealed that more than two-thirds of UK citizens want their local schools, parks, playgrounds and other open spaces to be pesticide free.

In 2016, Hammersmith and Fulham became the first London borough to ban pesticides from its parks, roads and council housing estates.

Ms Cohen said that Hammersmith and Fulham have been leading the way in making London pesticide free and she hopes other boroughs will follow their example.

Commenting on PAN UK’s campaign, Cllr Ben Coleman, Labour councillor for Fulham Broadway said it was great to have the charity’s support in switching to non-chemical alternatives and he hopes others will follow suit.

A total of 17 councillors have already joined PAN UK’s pledge including members from the Green, Labour and Conservative parties.