As the fight to tackle Ash Dieback continues, we have identified a woodland at The Willows in Torquay - the Furzebrake Plantation - that has been almost entirely infected by Ash Dieback.

A fungal tree disease, Ash Dieback has become a growing problem across the UK in recent years, and Torbay recently launched the ‘My Tree, My Responsibility’ campaign along with Devon County Council and the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum. The campaign aims to inform owners of trees to look out for signs of the fungal tree disease and to take any appropriate action to maintain public safety.

It is estimated that over the next two years between 1000 to 2000 trees in the bay on council owned land will need to be removed from high risk areas (of risk to public and property), at estimated cost of more than £400,000 of tree work. In the wider Devon area, more than 90% of Devon’s native ash trees are expected to be lost due to Ash dieback in the next five to 15 years.

Because we own the Furzebrake Plantation land, we will need to work with the Forestry Commission, who have attended the site to assess the condition, local forestry contractors and surrounding landowners to remove the infected trees, with the work planning to start in February.

Councillor Mike Morey, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Environment and Culture for Torbay Council, said: “As part of our continued surveying of trees on Council owned land, we have unfortunately identified a woodland in The Willows known as Furzebrake Plantation infected by Ash Dieback, which means most of the trees in this area will be removed.

“Many trees have already fallen over and others are now showing signs of dying back in the top section of the canopy. Many of the trees currently showing early stage infection either hang over private properties or are within falling distance, so unfortunately this means that action is required for health and safety reasons.”

To minimise the ecological impacts, a walk over survey by an ecologist is currently underway and they will have a watching brief on the works alongside the forestry contractor.

To pay for the essential works, we are planning to sell the timber to raise enough revenue, and is also contributing to a wider grant application for woodland improvements.

Councillor Morey added: “We understand residents’ concerns about the loss of trees generally and aim to replace them wherever possible. We’re currently working with the partners on the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum to look into external funding streams to help plant new trees.

“We are aiming to replant the woodland with appropriate tree species and also improve public access to the woodland with paths, signage, gates and styles.

“Once the works are complete and the woodland is safe, we would like to engage with the local community for any ideas and options to restore the woodland and improve a valuable education and public resource.

“Don’t forget as well, if you are a land owner we would strongly encourage you to also ensure your trees are inspected on a regular basis, more urgently areas of land that have Ash trees identified.”

Find out more on the Ash Dieback page.

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