Infected trees: Do’s and don’ts

The following advice will help land and property owners understand when and what action is needed – and when ‘no action’ is appropriate.

  • DO NOT FELL live infected ash trees UNLESS for public safety (or timber production). There is evidence that a small proportion of trees will be able to tolerate the disease and recover. Disease resistant trees could be the source of our future ash trees.
  • DO keep an eye on the tree’s safety as the disease progresses and prune or fell them ONLY if the tree or its branches threaten to cause injury or damage.
  • DO report new cases of the disease to the Forestry Commission through their Tree Alert service. However, there is NO NEED to do this if the disease has already been reported in your area. Check the latest Forestry Commission maps to find out.
  • DO check whether you need a felling licence from the Forestry Commission BEFORE undertaking felling.
  • DO consider pollarding infected ash trees as an alternative to felling. This way you can prevent an expensive future bill and any costly accidents, whilst keeping the tree’s wildlife value. Future management will also be easier and safer.
  • DO NOT cut ash trees or ash-dominated hedgerows during the bird-nesting season if this can be avoided. Spore production from diseased ash leaves is highest during the summer, so disturbance of trees during this time might also increase dispersal as well as disturbing protected wildlife.
  • DO keep tools, boots and equipment clean, particularly if working between infected trees.
  • DO dispose of infected ash tree material responsibly, and follow the latest Forestry Commission advice on preventing or minimising the spread of the disease. In the unlikely event of being served with a Plant Health Notice, this should contain details of local arrangements.  There is currently a prohibition on movement of ash seeds, plants or other planting material. See also further guidance for landowners under Frequently Asked Questions.
  • DO apply for and obtain a felling licence well-ahead of felling diseased trees that occur along roadsides or in other high risk situations. Some felling licences may take longer to obtain if trees are subject to environmental legislation and protection e.g. a Tree Preservation Order. Felling licences are valid for 5 years, so you may wish to apply for a clear fell including healthy highway ash trees adjacent to diseased ones that realistically are likely to succumb to the disease in that time period. The need for costly and disruptive road closures should be minimised as far as possible.
    DON’T wait for a felling licence if trees along a highways are dangerous. Such trees are exempt from requiring a felling licence. Instead focus on arranging any necessary highway /rights of way closures and contractors to undertake the work safely and without delay. Record if possible the reasons for classifying it as dangerous e.g. photos of rot, splits etc.  If in doubt contact your local District Council’s local Woodland Officer.

See also practical advice on what to do if you suspect your trees have ash dieback.