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£1m needed to tackle ash dieback over next two years

05 January 2021

Councillors are set to call for national funding to help manage the effects of ash dieback.

A report due to be presented to the County Council’s Cabinet next week provides an update on the ongoing work, at a local and national level, to tackle the worsening problem of the disease threatening one of the country’s favourite trees.

Cllr Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste, said: “I’m proud that our proactive work has seen us help to inform national policy on this disease. 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.”

Expert studies now suggest that by 2023 half of all the 168,000 roadside ash trees in Norfolk will have advanced decline. The majority of those ash trees are privately owned with just 20,200 owned by the County Council.

It’s estimated that the cost of carrying out tree safety work, key biodiversity enhancement projects, strategic habitat restoration, awareness raising among landowners, inspecting and reporting, will be £1m over the next two years. The report states that the overall programme is likely to run for many years beyond this initial period so the recommendation councillors will be considering is to increase the resource to manage ash dieback to £1m over the coming two financial years, with a view to developing a comprehensive 10 year programme.

Cabinet will discuss the report when it meets at 10am on Tuesday, 12 January. Read the reports and view the meeting live – or a recording afterwards.

Background

Since 2016, Norfolk’s ash dieback project team have been working to establish the current and projected scale of the issue, and arranging tree works to help meet the County Council’s duties and responsibilities. They have proactively surveyed the major highway routes, carried out tree work and advised landowners and carried out inspections to ensure trees are made safe where necessary.
All schools in Norfolk have been provided with advice and visited when needed and care has also been taken to assess and manage ash trees on the county’s busiest sections of green infrastructure, particularly along Norfolk’s Trails and landholdings such as Burlingham Woods.

Norfolk County Council land and plant material has been provided for ash tolerance trials, aiming to develop ash trees that are tolerant of ash dieback for the future.

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.

Any replanting to mitigate the effects of felling due to ash dieback will not be included in the count for the recently launched 1 Million Trees for Norfolk project. For more information on that visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/milliontrees

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