HALTON Borough Council says it is fighting back against rising instances of a deadly condition which is attacking its ash trees.

The borough could lose as many as 120,000 of its estimated one million trees through Ash Dieback disease, which could cost the UK £15billion as a whole.

Ash trees are planted extensively around Halton and worrying signs of infected trees were first reported in the borough last year.

Ash Dieback is caused by fungal spores transmitted in the wind, and while it is possible that the spores arrived in the UK naturally, it is more likely to have been imported on Ash saplings from infected parts of Europe.

To mitigate the liabilities of Ash Dieback the council is already working with national agencies and specialist contractors to fell infected trees.

Sadly, the removal of diseased trees will involve the removal of other tree species for practical reasons such as gaining access or giving unaffected trees space to develop and grow.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

The council says that the removal of these trees will be kept to a minimum and selected on the basis where the trees have clear visual defects and their retention would be considered a significant risk to public safety.

Once the infected areas are cleared, they can then be replanted with a mix of native tree species through the aid of a woodland stewardship grant.

Cllr Ron Hignett, executive board member for the physical environment, said: “The council will retain as many disease tolerant ash trees as possible.

“These will be identified through careful inspection and selection, and letting nature take its course will improve the resilience of our woods to future disease and climate change.

“There is no doubt the process of dealing with ash dieback will be evolutionary, initially working around the borough in areas that pose the greatest risk to public safety.

“In reassurance, these operations will be carefully considered with the national agencies and progressed at times of the year to have the least impact on wildlife and biodiversity.”

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Town Park in Runcorn is one of the first areas to be selected, with initial work being undertaken as a trial to gauge the level of resources and costs needed to help plan for the future.

Experts say the epidemic is still in its infancy in the UK, with estimates of at least 80 per cent of all ash trees succumbing to the disease.

Cllr Hignett continued: “This is going to have a devastating impact on the landscape and the biodiversity of Halton’s woodlands, as well as a major loss of connectivity between ecological habitats.

“The disease is chronic with a high mortality rate and particularly destructive of young ash trees, killing them within one growing season of symptoms becoming visible.

“Older more mature trees often survive an initial attack, but tend to succumb eventually after several seasons of infection.”