Posted: Wed 16th Oct 2019

Deadly tree disease spreading faster than expected through Flintshire, warns senior official

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 16th, 2019

A deadly fungal disease which could wipe out 90 per cent of Flintshire’s ash trees is spreading faster than expected, it’s been warned.

Flintshire Council has pledged to take action against ash dieback, which is lethal to European ash trees, and has been discovered across a number of locations in the county.

Senior officials said it is likely to wipe out the majority of the area’s 24,000 ash trees and could have a significant environmental impact, as well as posing a threat to public safety.

As a result, they have outlined plans to prioritise removing infected trees from roadsides and schools, as well as other public locations.

Calls have also been made for funding to be made available to tackle the issue with the local authority expected to face a bill of around £665,000 for removing and replanting trees.

Meanwhile private landowners in Flintshire may be required to fork out anywhere between £1.2m – £5m for tree felling.

Outlining the scale of the problem at a meeting held today (DEL TUESDAY 15 OCTOBER), Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for Streetscene and countryside, said: “Don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation as there are 12,000 of these trees on our highways.

“I went out with a tree officer and with saplings that were infected, ten weeks later it had spread to huge trees.

“I was devastated when I saw the impact as it was awful.

“Our whole landscape is going to change, and we need to act quite quickly because of the impact on the highway.

“It’s also going to be a financial risk as well, so I’ve raised this through the Welsh Local Government Association as it’s happening across the country and it’s only just hitting people how bad it is.”

Ash dieback was first recorded in Britain in 2012 from an imported nursery tree and has since spread across the nation with the first case in Flintshire identified in 2015.

It infects trees via airborne spores and symptoms include wilted and blackened leaves.

Areas where the disease has been spotted in the county include woodland next to the A55, as well as along the Alyn and Wheeler river valleys.

To address the danger posed to public safety, the council is planning to increase the number of tree inspections it carries out and use private contractors to clear those at risk of falling.

Presenting the authority’s action plan to members of its environment scrutiny committee, access and natural environment manager Tom Woodall said the rate the infection was spreading had increased significantly.

He said: “It was picked up in Flintshire in 2015 and since then it’s developed.

“This year our monitoring shows it’s now endemic across the county and that’s obviously very worrying.

“In the early stages of the disease coming to the country, it was hoped it could be tamed and managed, but it was very soon recognised it would be about mitigating it.

“For us, it’s about looking at the risks and the high risk is obviously the highway and education land where the public are going to be in the target zone if the tree was to fall.”

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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