2m Ash dieback battle

£2m Ash dieback battle

National Highways fells trees to keep routes safe

National Highways has launched a fightback against a major outbreak of ash dieback in the North West.

The tree fungus is now found across most of the UK. It affects shoots, branches and trunk base, causing canopy decline and the death of most affected trees.

A £2 million programme to tackle the problem over the next four months at dozens of locations along the M6, A590, A56, M56, M66, M58, M60 and M61 is now under way.

Dead and dying trees are removed to make areas safe, while contractors are carrying out general environmental management and, where identified, planting new trees.

The aim is to complete the works ahead of spring and the bird nesting season. To keep disruption to a minimum, some works will be carried out overnight.

National Highways Environmental Manager Chloe O’Hare told Radio News Hub: “We have been monitoring the spread of Ash dieback where symptoms have become more severe and are making every effort to minimise its impact. We want to do everything we can to preserve the biodiversity of our soft estate, but at the same time, we need to make sure everybody using our land, on or off road, is safe.

“We want to prolong tree life through careful management. This includes pruning, removing branches, reducing the size of trees and thinning out smaller trees to allow others the space to grow. We will only remove ash trees if we must – when an affected tree is a safety hazard because it’s either dying or already dead.

“Where we can, we’ll replace trees to reduce the impact of the disease on the environment. In areas identified for replanting, we will be adding a broader range of native tree species for increased resilience.”

Although Ash dieback is likely to kill millions of trees across the country, Barnaby Wylder, Plant Health Forestry Area Lead NW for the Forestry Commission, says there is hope for the future.

“Ash dieback has been present in England for more than a decade but fortunately a small number of trees appear to be tolerant to the fungus and will hopefully eventually provide healthy ash trees for future generations to enjoy.”

The South West has been particularly badly hit by Ash dieback, but National Highways is busy planting 3,000 trees in Devon and Cornwall in time for the spring.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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