5 July 2021 | Environment

Tree owners asked to check their trees for Ash Dieback

Lancashire County Council is reminding anyone with trees on their property that they have a responsibility to ensure they are in a safe condition. This is especially important this summer for owners of ash trees who should check them for signs of a disease called Ash Dieback so they do not become a danger to themselves or others.

The highly destructive disease is caused by a fungus which has spread throughout the UK in recent years and can lead to infected trees shedding branches or limbs, or potentially collapsing as the tree dies.
The county council estimates that there are 127,000 ash trees next to roads throughout Lancashire and these should be regularly checked to ensure they do not pose a threat to safety.

As many of these trees are on private land, the council has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue among residents, businesses and landowners to inform them of their responsibility to ensure their trees do not become a hazard to road users or people using adjacent pavements.

Ash Dieback, also known as Chalara, is a disease of ash trees, especially European or Common ash, the UK’s native ash species. It is caused by a fungus which originated in Asia and has now swept across Europe, killing up to 90% of ash trees in some countries. There is no cure for the disease and it is fatal in the vast majority of cases. Contamination in the UK is beyond the point where the spread of infection can be stopped and the disease is now known to be present across 56% of the UK, including 96% of Lancashire.

County Councillor Charlie Edwards, cabinet member for highways and transport at Lancashire County Council said:

“It’s vital that everyone who has ash trees on their property takes action to make sure they don’t become a danger to themselves or anyone else.

“The county council has stepped up its safety inspections of trees in response to the threat from ash dieback, which is no small task as there are thousands of ash trees next to roads, as well as many others alongside countryside paths, and on other properties.

“The County Council, the Forestry Commission, the Tree Council and the Woodland Trust all recommend that tree owners should have their trees regularly inspected by a professional so that, as the disease progresses, appropriate decisions can be made and accidents can be prevented.

“People should pay particular attention to ash trees within areas where the failure of the whole tree or falling branches could place people or neighbouring property in danger.”

Infection enters a tree through the leaves and bark and young trees die within a couple of years, but mature trees usually take longer. However large trees can become dangerous long before they die, so owners must take action to ensure safety if trees are in locations where they could pose a risk to people or property.

Infected trees are a target for other diseases to attack and worsen the problem. An infection at a point close to ground level can cause whole trees to become unstable and dangerous over much shorter periods with no obvious dieback symptoms in the crown.

County Councillor Edwards added: “While safety must be the priority, felling the tree should not be the first option, particularly as some ash trees are known to show resistance to Ash Dieback, and we have been part of a national effort to secure genetic material from these trees to try to secure the future of the species.

“In many cases it may be possible reduce the risk by pruning branches, re-routing paths, or even repositioning items away from the tree so that people can avoid being in the immediate area.”

“People should also be aware that, with certain exemptions, all trees in Britain are protected by the Forestry Act, which means that a felling licence is required to remove them. Tree owners should be clear that their tree is in an exempted category (which includes trees in gardens), or obtain a licence, before any felling takes place.

You can find information and advice, and links to resources provided by organisations such as the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust at www.lancashire.gov.uk/ashdieback