Council given till March to fell Phytophthora ramorum-infected trees

Torbay Council in Devon has been told to fell over a thousand trees in woods it owns due to confirmed infection with Phytophthora ramorum.

Image: Torbay Council
Image: Torbay Council

The Forestry Commission confirmed the presence of the fungus-like micro-organism in two woods, The Grove, Churston and Ball Copse, following ground inspections and laboratory sample testing.

Based on this it served Statutory Plant Health Notices on Torbay Council and on Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, which manages the sites, requiring that all larch trees and those sweet chestnut trees showing signs of disease to be felled before 31 March.

The Trust has agreed to give Torbay Council a licence to allow the council and its contractor to enter the woodlands and manage the necessary operations.

Councillor Robert Excell, Executive Lead for Community Services, said: "Following the statutory notice issued by the Forestry Commission we instructed Hi-Line SW Ltd to carry out the felling works required at Ball Copse and The Grove woodlands in Churston.

"Unfortunately it appears that over 1,000 larch and sweet chestnut trees have been infected by P. ramorum and it is essential that we carry out these works to limit the spread of this disease to other healthy trees and plants."

Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust director Damian Offer added: "We are pleased that prompt action is being taken now that matters which hitherto prevented the Trust taking action to remove the infected trees have finally been resolved.

"While the loss of a significant number of trees is always regrettable, removal of the larch and sweet chestnut does offer a great opportunity to facilitate the establishment of more appropriate native broadleaved woodland, which will offer improved habitat for wildlife."

Mick Biddle, South West England Tree Health Officer for the Forestry Commission, said: "The actions which the council is taking are in line with the national P.ramorum disease management strategy, based on the scientific advice of the Government's Chief Plant Health Officer. Its emphasis on early destruction of infected and likely infected plants before they can spread the disease further has helped to significantly reduce the rate of new infection in recent years."

The Forestry Commission has urged the public, tree owners and tree professionals to remain vigilant and report suspected sightings via its Tree Alert on-line disease reporting tool.

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