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Councils step up action against deadly Ash Dieback disease

Released: Monday, 29 July 2019

A task force is to be set up to help manage a deadly disease which could wipe out Adur and Worthing's entire stock of Ash trees.

Ash Dieback has already been discovered in some trees in the area meaning the estimated population of more than 1,200 of the species, or almost 20 per cent of the entire woodland covering, is at risk.

The disease, which is spreading across Europe, is presently incurable meaning Ash - the most common tree in West Sussex - could disappear from the landscape forever.

Now Adur and Worthing's parks team is carrying out an urgent study of the extent of the problem with two areas - The Gallops in Worthing and Lancing Ring in Adur - at particular risk due to the volume of ash trees there.

Felling and replanting programmes will be the main planks of action. Residents are also asked to remain vigilant and report any possible signs they see. Blackened and curling young leaf shoots, a very thin crown at the top of the tree and damage to bark are some of the signs that the disease has taken hold.

Philippa Reece, the Councils Parks and Open Spaces Manager, explained that her team would be working closely with West Sussex County Council, The Tree Council and other local landowners to plan a co-ordinated approach to the identification of affected areas. She said:

“We will be engaging with local schools and community groups as part of these replanting programmes to try and create something special, new memories and legacies out of something so sad.”

“Unfortunately what we are seeing across Europe and other areas within the UK is that the vast majority of Ash trees that contract the disease will die so, sadly, the plan really has to be about felling affected trees and replacing with other species.”

“Of course that will change the look and feel of some of our best-loved beauty spots and natural landscape as a whole. We will do everything we can to maintain the beauty of our open spaces, these much-needed green lungs for our communities and minimize the impact of this disease across Adur and Worthing.”

Ash Dieback, a fungal disease, is spread via spores from tree to tree. It was first spotted in Worthing in 2014 and sighted in the Crematorium a year later.

Since than the rate of infection all over Europe has been growing. Young trees are more susceptible while older trees can live longer. A small percentage of Ash trees are resistant and it is hoped to breed from these in the future.

The Councils' will also have to work with landowners to identify diseased trees on private land. Responsibility for dealing with the problem will ultimately rest with the landowner.

Cllr Edward Crouch, Worthing Borough Council's Executive Member for Digital and Environment Services, said:

“It is a sad state of affairs given how much ash we have here but we are determined that our open spaces remain green and that is why we are developing this replanting programme.”

Cllr Emma Evans, Adur District Council's Executive Member for the Environment, said:

“I am confident that our team will take the right action. Nobody likes to hear of the threat to beautiful spaces like Lancing Ring but we have to accept the danger and ensure we respond swiftly to ensure these vital green spaces are preserved for future generations.”

Residents are asked to be sure the tree they think is affected is Ash (it can sometimes be confused with Rowan or Elder) before contacting the Councils' Parks Department at environmentalservices@adur-worthing.gov.uk or ring 01903 221067.

Photo: Worthing Crematorium where Ash dieback has been identified

PR19-116 - Worthing Crematorium where Ash dieback has been identified

(PR19-116)

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