Urgent Ash Dieback work in Withdean Park woods

Sadly, we estimate that we’ll need to take down between 100 and 200 trees in the area. Work started on 4 April 2022 and we expect it to take about two weeks.  

The trees have been inspected and need to be removed due to their fragile and dangerous condition.  

We will be carrying out daily surveys while the tree work takes place to make sure any disturbance to wildlife in the area is kept a minimum. 

We try to avoid tree removals during the nesting season so that we do not disturb wildlife.  

Where we do carry out removals in the nesting season we work closely with an ecologist to ensure that the risk to wildlife and birds is minimised. If there is a need to relocate any nests this is only carried out as a last resort and with specialist advice. 

We’ll need to close some footways and entrances in the park while the work takes place. Signage will be in place to explain why the work is taking place. 

Please accept our apologies for any disruption this may cause. 

Containing the spread of Ash dieback in the city 

The disease is not only affecting Ash trees in Brighton & Hove, it’s also killing the species throughout the country, with the worst affected areas being here in the south-east of England. 

Although many of the trees being removed may look healthy, they are infected with the fungal infection Ash dieback (ADB). 

Unfortunately, Ash dieback is impossible to contain and we have already been forced to take action as it spreads throughout the city.  

We have to remove the diseased trees to contain the spread of infection and ensure the people are safe to enjoy the city’s woodlands. 

The symptoms first become visible during early June when the leaves are first emerging. These show themselves as wilting, and dark discoloration on the leaves with elongated lesions developing on the smaller branches. 

Eventually the whole crown will become infected with a characteristic ‘crown die-back’ developing over the next few years. 

The disease spreads via spores caught in the wind from tiny mushrooms born from the main leaf stalk and has the ability to spread over a ten miles radius within one year. Over longer distances the risk of disease spread is most likely to be through the movement of diseased ash plants and foliage. 

Although there are relatively few Ash trees within more urban areas, around 20 per cent of all woodland trees in the city are Ash trees. 

With an estimated 75 to 80 per cent of Ash trees throughout the country expected to die within the next five to 10 years, our woodlands will look very different as a result of Ash dieback infection. 

Communities to be involved in regeneration 

We have been granted a special Felling License from the government’s Forestry Commission, which includes plans for the restocking, regeneration or improvements to each site. 

Although the extent of tree removal is worrying, our tree experts are using this as an opportunity to develop areas with a wider range of species and habitat diversity to cope with diseases. 

They also believe it presents a positive opportunity for communities to support and influence the regeneration of the woodlands that have been affected by Ash dieback. 

Projects such as the Carden Hill Habitat Improvement programme, involve careful planning to help increase the species of trees within the city. Schemes such as these, rely on our the support of a fantastic team of volunteers who dedicate a lot of time in helping us to regenerate and restore our woodlands and trees within the city.  

We’re working with specialists in many areas to ensure everything is taken into consideration before works are carried out. 

This includes working closely on-site with expert ecologists to minimise any potential disturbance to protected species like nesting birds and bats. 

It also includes deciding when conservation work should be carried out, the possible disruption to local communities, access issues, and public and private travel concerns. 

However, the safety of the public is our main concern and is, and must be, at the forefront of deciding when works begin. 

National concern to a national disease 

With the government estimating there are 125 million Ash trees in woodlands and between 27-60 million Ash trees outside of woodlands in the UK, plus potentially two billion saplings and seedlings in woodlands and non-woodland situations, many of Britain’s leading organisations are also deeply concerned. 

On its website, the Forestry Commission states: “If we are to avoid a large-scale deterioration and loss of tree cover in Ash dominated woodlands we need to take action, (with) safety works carried out on a scale not seen since the catastrophic outbreak of Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.” 

The National Trust also highlights the problems on its website: “Historic trees and beautiful woodland, which have inspired the likes of writer Beatrix Potter and landscape painter John Constable, face extinction. Ash dieback is driven by the climate crisis. Mild, wet winters create ideal conditions for disease and pests to spread.” 

The Woodland Trust highlights its concerns, also on its website: “It’s thought that we are going to lose around 80% of our Ash trees in the UK. This is going to have a devastating impact on the landscape and the biodiversity of our woodlands.”   

Minimising impact on natural habitats 

Councillor Amy Heley, co-chair of the council’s Environment, Transport & Sustainability committee, said: “Sadly, when Ash trees have been infected with Ash dieback, we have no alternative but to remove them. 

“It’s very upsetting for everyone, but our tree experts are working alongside other specialists to inspect our Ash trees and look out for the signs of Ash dieback and any other diseases too.   

“When removing trees, we always ensure the effects are kept to an absolute minimum, especially when it comes to the natural habitats of our wildlife.  

“Although the disease is having a devastating impact within the city and throughout the country, we are positively regenerating areas through careful planning.   

“Volunteers and community groups have been working hard planting trees in a wide variety of areas to replace those we have lost and increase the species of trees within the city.”  

Some Ash trees are tolerant or resistant to Ash dieback and will be retained where possible to help re-stock our woodlands with native Ash trees. 

Tree tops will be left on site mostly as a means to feed nutrients back into the cycle within woodland settings and to avoid suppressing ground flora with layers of wood chip. It is also extremely costly to remove felled trees from woodland. 

Although this will often result in untidy looking sites, there are benefits in the longer term. 

Please be careful in woodland areas 

Please be vigilant within our woodlands and do be extra careful, especially during windy days, due to the potential risk of falling trees and dead wood. 

We’ve now removed diseased Ash trees from 7 locations within the city and are seeing positive natural regeneration in those undertaken.  

Find out more about our work to tackle Ash dieback in Brighton & Hove

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