£1m bill to tackle fungus destroying Norfolk trees

Dr Anne Edwards and Professor Allan Downie, who have worked on ash dieback disease at the John Innes

Ash die back spores growing in a sample dish. - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

A plea is to be made for the government to help Norfolk with the £1m cost of dealing with a disease which is damaging tens of thousands of trees in the county.

Norfolk County Council said  by 2023, half of the county's 168,000 roadside ash trees would have advanced decline due to a devastating fungus.

The fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus has been in the UK since 2002 and causes ash dieback. It was first identified in Norfolk in 2012.

Ash trees at Ashwellthorpe. Picture: James Bass

Ash trees in Norfolk are being damaged by the fungus causing ash dieback. - Credit: James Bass

It leads to leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to the death of the tree.

The majority of Norfolk ash trees affected are privately owned, with 20,200 owned by the county council.

But the council needs to manage those and carry out regular inspections of ones by roadsides and on public rights of way.


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While landowners are primarily responsible, where they cannot be identified, the council will have to cover the costs.

Analysis has identified particular clusters of ash dieback in the south and west of the county.

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At a meeting next week, the Conservative-controlled cabinet is asked to agree to increase spending on managing ash dieback to £1m over two years.

That would pay for safety work, biodiversity enhancement projects, strategic habitat restoration, awareness raising among landowners, inspecting and reporting.

And councillors are expected to call for the government to create a nationally funded programme to help councils.

Norfolk county councillor Andrew Grant. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste, said: “The team are continuing to work with the government and specialists at the John Innes Centre and Forest Research on this national issue.

“What’s now clear from our detailed work is the scale of the issue we need to manage, and the costs likely to be involved.

"The support from Defra to date has been excellent and we would like to see a commitment from the government to fund a national programme to manage ash dieback.”

There is no plan for pre-emptive felling of Norfolk County Council owned trees, in part to allow the chance to identify and retain those rare trees that are highly resistant to ash dieback.

But the council said where felling was necessary, there would be replanting.

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