Managing elm disease in the city

Our arboriculture team face the battle against elm disease each summer.

Sadly, we have spotted some early signs of the disease on elms in our city once again.

Elm disease is spread by elm bark beetles, which live in the bark of the trees and carry the disease through their root systems.

We’re reminding residents how they can help us to manage elm disease in the city.

Protect our national collection

There are ways in which you can help us protect our historic collection of beautiful elm trees.

We’re reminding residents not to buy elm logs or timber that hasn’t been stripped of its bark and treated.

We know that residents might find it difficult to identify logs or timber, but reputable suppliers should know what type of wood they’re selling and be happy to tell you.

If not, please find another supplier and avoid bringing diseased elm wood into the city.

An extra pair of eyes

We’re asking residents to be an extra pair of eyes and let us know they spot any elm trees with leaves wilting or turning yellow or brown ahead of autumn.

This is particularly important in private gardens that aren’t viewable from public places.

If you’re concerned about an elm tree, please contact us by emailing elmdisease@brighton-hove.gov.uk with a photo and the tree’s ‘what3words’ location so we can come and take a look.

If it’s infected, we can take immediate action to remove it and stop the disease spreading free of charge to the tree owner.

Elm tree loss across the city

Unfortunately, several trees across the city are infected with elm disease.

This includes an elm on Grand Parade, 2 mature elms at Old Steine and sadly, a very mature pollarded elm located at the edge of The Level.

In addition, 29 of our beautiful elm trees are infected with elm disease in Coldean, just off Coldean Lane between Park Road and Hawkhurst Road. These are located in 9 different locations across the area.

As part of our essential conservation work, we sadly need remove the trees.

Elm disease can spread very quickly, so we remove trees to ensure the disease doesn’t spread and we can protect other elms in the area.

We’ll let residents know as soon as possible when the work has been scheduled and how long it will take.

Never an easy decision

As with the removal of any tree in the city, the decision is taken by our arboriculture team who are all tree experts and work hard to conserve the city’s trees.

They don’t and won’t remove trees unless it’s vitally important to do so.

We’ve sadly lost many trees to elm disease across the city in previous years and anticipate more loss over the summer months.

Regenerating our woodlands

As part of our replanting plan, we’ve planted 19,919 trees and tree whips across Brighton & Hove in the past year to regenerate woodlands devastated by ash dieback and elm disease.

We’re planting nearly 60,000 tree whips in 2024 to continue our important regeneration work and this includes 5,400 tree whips across woodland in Coldean. 

Giving elm wood a second life

As part of our elm disease programme, the timber is destroyed to slow the spread of elm disease and minimise the threat of the elm beetle.

We’re working in partnership with Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project to save elm wood from processing.

5 tonnes of elm wood have been repurposed and given a second life.

The wood is sold by Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project and used for making shelves, furniture and other projects.

The wood is from elm trees felled last season that were infected with elm disease.

The wood sold by Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project has been carefully debarked and is safe to use.

We’re proud of our collection, let’s protect it

Councillor Tim Rowkins, Chair of the City Environment, South Downs and The Sea Committee, said: “It’s unbelievably sad to see large elm trees succumbing to disease and needing to be taken down.

“Leaving them in place would lead to far more destruction, so we are forced to choose the least bad option to prevent further spread of disease.

“We’re proud of our world-renowned collection of trees in the city and we have a duty to protect them. This year we have begun rolling out an inoculation programme for our elms to help reduce the spread of disease in the future.

“We ask residents to only buy wood for log burners and stoves if they know it is not elm wood.

“The elm loss in Coldean is really devastating, and we’re sorry for the impact this might have on local residents. We’ll do our best to minimise any disruption caused by road closures.”

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