Tree fungus set to cost Devon landowners £70m

Landowners in Devon collectively face a whopping £70 million bill over the next five to 15 years – to tackle the dangers posed by a deadly ash tree disease.

They are being encouraged to inspect trees for ash dieback for public safety reasons – and to have those showing signs of the disease and close to a public highway felled.

Devon County Council has launched a new campaign – My Tree, My Responsibility – supported by the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum.

The initiative aims to help landowners identify the deadly fungal tree disease and take appropriate action. The council says the action is necessary “in order to maintain public safety”.

More than 90 per cent of Devon’s native ash trees are under threat. Most could be lost to the disease in the next five to 15 years.

There are currently around 448,000 ash trees in Devon that are located within falling distance of highways that are owned by third parties or on unregistered land.

Devon County Council says the total cost of felling all of the trees could top £70 million.

It anticipates having to fell 6,300 of its own ash trees, which will cost the public purse around £2.5 million

Councillor Stuart Hughes, the council’s Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “It is essential that Devon’s roads are as safe as possible and we are regularly monitoring and inspecting trees alongside our highways in order to keep the network as safe as possible.

“We would encourage landowners to do the same, as they need to be aware that trees on their land are their responsibility. If any trees are found to be a safety hazard, we would urge them to please take appropriate action.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Environment, said: “We need landowners to take a proactive approach to managing this highly infectious tree disease. Once Ash dieback has infected an ash tree, it will shed branches and limbs, or the whole tree can be at risk of collapse.

“All landowners should ensure that any trees on their land, particularly ash trees alongside public roads and rights of way, are professionally inspected while in leaf to determine how urgently they might need attention. We also need communities and landowners to establish new plantings of different tree species to replace ash trees that will be lost.”

Devon County Council leads the Devon Ash Dieback Forum, which was established in 2016 to address the risks of the disease.

The authority says it is committed to replacing trees lost through ash dieback. Two saplings will replace a semi-mature tree and one new sapling will be planted for each ash sapling lost.

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