The ongoing fight to control elm disease in the city and protect the National Elm Collection, has been highlighted in a letter to the government.
Councillor Tim Rowkins, Chair of the City Environment, South Downs and The Sea Committee, has written to David Hill, Director General for Environment, asking for support, as the council’s arboriculture team struggles to keep the devastating disease at bay.
Brighton & Hove is home to the National Elm Collection, with over 17,000 individual trees including the largest and oldest surviving English Elm in Europe.
Aside from the national importance of the collection, these Elms are a fundamental part of the city’s identity.
In his letter, Cllr Rowkins writes: “As custodians of these trees, we have been fighting Elm Disease for many years. Sadly, the situation has deteriorated, and transmission of the disease has increased.
“Our arboriculture team, while skilled and dedicated, is limited, and is already having to make difficult choices about what they prioritise.”
850 trees lost
As a direct result of last summer’s Elm Disease season, around 850 elm trees were felled across the city as part of the control programme. These have included some of the city’s oldest and best loved trees.
Previous losses have included one of the historic 400-year-old Preston Park Twin elms, while remedial work has been carried out to help save the remaining Twin.
“Each summer we deal with more than 300 individual sites including streets, parks, woodlands, cemeteries and private landholdings, all requiring very significant resource and funding,” added Cllr Rowkins.
“We are still working on felling infected elm trees identified this year, and will continue well into the winter..”
Cllr Rowkins is appealing for emergency assistance to help the council fight the spread of the disease and protect the National Collection and has asked for a meeting with DEFRA to discuss the scale of the problem and explore possible solutions.
Residents can help
Elm disease is spread by elm bark beetles which live in the bark of trees and is carried through the trees’ root system.
Residents can help in the fight to control the spread of the disease by avoiding buying elm logs for wood burning stoves and open fires or elm timber that hasn’t been stripped of its bark and treated.
The council’s arboriculture team offers a free inspection of firewood and other timber. If the wood is elm, they will dispose of it and replace with an alternative.
Anyone concerned about an elm tree, or to request a timber inspection, can email: Arboriculture@brighton-hove.gov.uk
If reporting a tree, please include a photo and the tree’s ‘what3words’ location.