UPDATE - 5th June 2020:
Following consultation with the contractors, the works at the bottom half of the Lith is expected to complete within the next 2 weeks. The contractors will then move up the hill to the top end of the Lith to finalise the works there. That is estimated to be a further 2 weeks therefore completing all works by the end of June 2020.
Horndean Parish Council would like to provide members of the public who may be concerned with the tree works on Catheringon Lith, some more information to ease concerns and answer any questions.
Sadly, most of the Ash on the Lith are infected with a disease commonly known as Ash Dieback. It was first identified on the site approximatey 4 years ago. This disease affects ash trees as a fungus grows inside the tree, eventually blocking its water transport systems, causing it to die. The disease originated from Asia but has been widespread in mainland Europe for many years. It is projected that this disease could kill 95% of UK ash trees, and the likely cost to the British economy is estimated at £15 billion.
If you walk around the Lith and look at the Ash trees you will see that many are at advanced stages of dieback, and need removing for public safety. The trees are on steep banks over footpaths, roads and residential properties.
In agreement with the Forestry Commission and EHDC, with whom a number of onsite meetings were held, we have had to make the tough decision to remove ash trees with dieback that pose a risk to public safety. We are leaving healthy ash as they may have a genetic tolerance that will allow them to survive, but over the next few months and years these healthy ash trees will need to be monitored and may also become infected and need to be removed.
Ash trees with dieback have an increased amount of dead wood in the crown, the trees become brittle over time with branches breaking away from the main body of the tree. If they are not dealt with, the trees are at risk of spontaneous collapse, presenting an immediate danger to the surrounding area and people who may be walking amongst them. Spontaneous collapse, as the name suggests, cannot be anticipated and makes it impossible for the tree surgeons to climb the tree safely to carry out felling.
It cannot be stressed enough the danger that felling ash trees poses to our contractors. Please follow the below link for more information:
Please click here for Safety Guidance for felling dead Ash
In short: The felling of dead and dying ash in effect makes an already hazardous operation much more dangerous, it is essential that every effort is made to fell these sites mechanically and to keep any chainsaw operations to an absolute minimum.
Additionally, managers and main contractors must ensure that risk assessments and method statements are effectively communicated to all operators and that only the most competent and well equipped operators are used on sites where dead Ash is prevalent.
Horndean Parish Council has engaged an ARB Approved and EHDC recommended contractor to undertake the works.
While we appreciate this is not the most ideal time for tree felling with nesting birds/wildlife we sadly had to make the tough decision to carry on with the works due to the public safety concerns mentioned above.
We were hoping that the works could have been carried out earlier in the year but due to the significant high winds and wet weather, it was not safe for the contractors to use machinery on the slopes at Catherington Lith. The risks posed to the operators and machinery from slipping when working on a wet, steep slope was too high, and the risk of leaving dead and dangerous trees above footpaths, roads and residential properties for the next 4/5 months was also something we could not risk, as public safety is paramount on a site of this nature.
With regard to surveying the sites, we have been carrying out Dormice surveys for the past 4+ years and have reports of zero sightings. With birds and bats our tree contractors are carrying out inspections of the trees before felling is taking place. One member of their team has a Level 4 qualification in Arboriculture which allows him to carry out survey work using climbing methods and/or through the use of an endoscope (climbing of dead ash is not recommended).
While there are a number of Ash trees that have been felled and are still lying on the woodland floor, these will be processed and tidied up properly before the works are finished, but please give the contractors time to carry out this process.
Some trees will be monolithed and these trees will allow us to create a number of tree carvings on the site and also place bat boxes and tawny owl boxes around the woodland.
Once the works have been completed the site will be left alone during summer, but over the autumn/winter Horndean Parish Council is expecting to plant trees to replace the Ash that have been lost. The plan is to diversify the species in the woodland to increase the site's tolerance to future tree diseases. We are considering planting Oak, Beech, White Beam, Hazel etc.
The clearance work was discussed and planned fully within Council Meetings which are open to the public who are welcome to attend and contribute accordingly.
The Felling Licence has been added to the Parish Council website should you wish to view it. Please also read the Woodland Management Plan - a relevant document.
Hopefully, we have covered all the queries you may have. We will not be answering any further individual queries. As you may imagine the current situation with Covid-19 has reduced resource within the team but work on all sites continues.
This document has been prepared by:
Lynn Evans - Chairman HPC
Elaine Tickell - Chairman Open Spaces
Additional information documents:
HPC Woodland Management Plan
Ash Dieback Map of Works
Felling Licence Map