People across Harborough asked to help council pinpoint and manage diseased ash trees

The council is being forced to tackle the threat of ash dieback throughout Leicestershire

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:52 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:54 pm
A diseased ash (left) and a healthy ash (right)

People across Harborough are being asked to help the county council pinpoint and manage diseased ash trees – which could pose a danger.

The authority’s bold scheme to plant 700,000 trees – one for every resident in the county - is already under way.

But the council is also being forced to tackle the threat of ash dieback throughout Leicestershire.

And that’s the last thing the county can afford – it’s already one of the least-wooded areas of the entire UK.

The highly destructive disease is caused by a fungus and can lead to infected trees shedding branches or limbs - or falling as the tree dies.

There are thought to be over 500,000 ash trees in Leicestershire - with over 120,000 of them standing next to roads.

Many of the trees are on private land.

So the council has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue among residents, businesses and landowners.

The authority is reminding them of their responsibility to ensure their trees do not become a hazard to road users or people using adjacent pavements.

Cllr Blake Pain, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: "It's vital that everyone who has ash trees on their property takes action to ensure they are safe.

"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 and on other properties.

"Tree owners should have their trees regularly inspected by a professional,” added Cllr Pain.

“So that as the disease progresses appropriate decisions in tree management 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."

Ash dieback enters a tree through the leaves and bark and young trees die within two years - but mature trees usually take longer.

But large trees can become dangerous long before they die, so owners must take action to ensure safety.

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. Diseased trees will show dead tips.

They can also be discoloured and have a ‘pom-pom’ effect with clumps of living leaves around the areas affected by ash dieback.

“While safety is a priority, felling the tree should not be the first option, particularly as some ash trees are known to show resistance to ash dieback.

“We have been part of a national effort to secure genetic material from these trees to try to ensure the future of the species,” added Cllr Pain.

"It is important to remember that ash is one of our most common native trees and is incredibly valuable for wildlife.

“We would stress that you shouldn’t fell any trees unless you have to.

“In many cases it may be possible to 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.

“Always check trees for active bird nests or bat breeding or roosting sites, or other special species, well before undertaking any work.

"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."

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Leicestershire boasts just six per cent woodland – well below the national average of 10 per cent.

The county council currently manages around 321,000 trees.

But with diseases such as ash dieback placing more trees under threat, the authority’s strategy and action plan, adopted in May 2020, will see the number of trees across the county increase dramatically.

The county council offers a free tree scheme for landowners affected by ash dieback, in partnership with the Woodland Trust.

The scheme aims to replant native trees across the county to replace trees lost in the landscape.