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Diseased trees to come down amid safety concerns

Published: 5 June 2020

Ash Dieback Ash Dieback

Work to make safe a number of trees affected by Ash Dieback disease in Exeter is set to take place over the coming months.

The City Council is currently surveying the health of Ash trees on its land across the city and early signs are not good.

It is estimated that the UK will lose up to 90% of its ash trees over the coming months and years.

In Exeter, the fungal disease has already taken its toll and the Council says it needs to start removing several trees which represent a risk to public safety. A programme of replacement tree planting will continue to be carried out across the city where appropriate locations are available.

Last summer, the Council inspected all of its known ash trees. The survey indicated that only 10% of its trees were showing symptoms. Larger trees were mainly in good health and only younger trees showed any sign of dieback.

Cllr David Harvey, Lead Councillor for Environment and City Management, said that this year’s survey told a very different story.

“Unfortunately, early indications are that the effects of the disease have accelerated more rapidly through the city than we had anticipated. 

“This year’s survey, which will be completed in September, has already shown that ash trees of all ages and sizes are presenting decline symptoms where remaining canopy is averaging 75% of that of a healthy tree.

“We are now at the point in our Ash Dieback strategy action plan where we must begin to prioritise and order works as necessary to protect public safety and property,” he added.

The disease has a dramatic effect on the way the wood reacts, with the tree’s core strength destroyed, making them brittle, unpredictable and uncontrollable under stress in high winds.

The Council’s tree team are using the most modern techniques and technology including drones to help complete the survey and identify the most high risk trees. It is estimated that those trees currently suffering from the diseases that have only 75% canopy will have deteriorated to 50% within the next 12 months.

Cllr Harvey said that the Council valued trees and green spaces highly and was contributing to the ‘Saving Devon’s Treescapes’ project lead by Devon Wildlife Trust and planting trees in Exeter where suitable space is available, in order to mitigate any losses.

Where safe to do so, some dead trees or parts of the ash trees will be left standing in order to benefit from their continuing ecological services.

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