Devon Ash Dieback Plan refresh 2021

Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum logo     Devon County Council logo

Five years ago, in February 2016, the county agreed a Devon Ash Dieback Action plan. This document brings that plan up to date, presenting priorities for increased action over the next few years. The aim is to ensure that our response to the disease fully and properly addresses its impacts on safety, infrastructure, landscape and wildlife. We intend to maintain Devon’s position at the forefront of national efforts to deal effectively with the disease.

Much has already been achieved: our main accomplishments are detailed in Annex 1. Much more is planned and already resourced, in particular through the Saving Devon’s Treescapes Project – again, please see Annex 1 for details. However, substantial shortfalls remain. The purpose of this document is specifically to identify areas where there is a need for increased resources and action, to meet current or anticipated circumstances.

To this end, Table 1 gives 11 top priorities for the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum (DADBRF) to address, to secure necessary increase in resources and therefore action. Table 2 gives a further 8 priorities for increased activity. Suggested lead organisations are given in both tables.

The plan refresh covers Devon, Torbay and Plymouth. It has been produced following consultation with all members of the DADBRF. For information about the disease and the forum and its activities, and for many ash dieback-related resources, visit DADBRF.

Table 1. Top priorities for increased action

Action Lead Rationale
1 Increase resources for tree inspection, felling and replanting. Devon County Council (DCC)
Torbay Council
Plymouth City Council
Increasingly high numbers of diseased and unsafe trees are present near highways and public spaces. More frequent inspections, more remedial work, and more planting are all required.
2 Increase local authority resources for tree protection and management. All Local Authorities (LAs) Tree Officers and equivalent LA positions have a major role to play in delivering an adequate response to ADB, and ensuring compliance with mitigation plans, TPOs, Conservation Areas, etc..
3 Increase resources available to address impact on landscape and wildlife. All DADBRF partners, led by
Devon Wildlife Trust and DCC
We need to greatly upscale Saving Devon Treescapes ambitions and targets to adequately address disease impacts and ensure the loss of millions of ash trees does not have an adverse impact on Devon’s wildlife or landscapes.
4 Ensure that the development phase of Saving Devon’s Treescape is a great success. All DADBRF partners, led by
Devon Wildlife Trust
To maximise chances of NLHF supporting the delivery phase. SDT is fundamental to the county achieving its ADB aims.
5 Firmly embed the 3:2:1 principle. All DADBRF partners
Tree Officers, etc.
This is a key part of our strategic response to maintaining the quality of county’s treescapes.
6 Produce a Devon Tree Strategy. Devon Local Nature Partnership (DLNP), led by Woodland Trust. Once the England Trees Strategy is live, a county strategy is needed to lead and guide treescape recovery and resilience, and community involvement. A successor to LERG is required, with a broader focus.
7 Increase, coordinate and encourage the supply of Devon sourced and grown trees. DLNP, led by Woodland Trust. Current levels of demand far out strip supply – most nurseries source seed and plants from outside the county. Strong supporting national policy is needed, both for commercial and community nurseries, with funding as necessary.
8 Increase engagement by farmers and other landowners, and access to advice. NFU
All DADBRF partners with a famer focus
Levels of understanding of the impacts, risks of disease and felling licence requirements remain low. We need to raise awareness, and to press the advantages of early planning and intervention.
9 Further training needed for tree surgeons. Tree Officers
Arboriculturists Association
Needed to encourage good practice and provision of sound advice to landowners.
10 Faster turnaround for felling licence applications. Forestry Commission Current 3-month delay places people and properties at risk and discourages compliance.
11 Influence the development of Environmental Land Management scheme(s) All DADBRF partners involved in ELM Test and Trials and piloting. ELM has the potential to be a key force for positive change, delivering rich and resilient treescapes across agricultural land.

Table 2. Other priorities for increased action

Action Lead Rationale
1 Embed ADB issues in planning strategies and plans, including the Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Link to Devon Tree Strategy – see above Local Authorities Developers and others must acknowledge the potential impact of ADB on site mitigation and compensation. Land is also required for replacement planting – especially away from roadsides.
2 Communication with public, including improved coordination of media activities. All DADBRF partners, led by DCC and DWT High levels of awareness of the disease among the general population are essential.
Delivery of the forum’s communications plan needs to be monitored and kept under regular review.
3 Communication with other parts of the UK DCC
The Tree Council
So we can share ideas, knowledge and experience, and respond to the disease more effectively and efficiently.
4 Aftercare and protection of newly-planted trees All partners promoting and facilitating tree planting. Tree Wardens. Tree planting is the easy bit! Education and resources are needed to ensure they are protected, and that they survive and thrive.
5 Recognition that simply letting trees grow (e.g. in hedges) is often a better option than planting new ones. Devon Hedge Group
South Hams Society
Woodland Trust
There are large numbers of existing trees in hedges, etc, that are suppressed. Natural regeneration is often a highly effective way of achieving more trees.
6 Greater public awareness about the threat posed by grey squirrels. Forestry Commission Grey squirrels cause significant damage to most plantings of native broadleaved trees. This needs to be factored into plans and expectations at an early stage. Control measures need to be supported.
7 Improved understanding of the impact of ADB on firewood suppliers. Saving Devon’s Treescapes
Forestry Commission
ADB may lead to an oversupply of firewood reducing prices; it may also kickstart the formation of new businesses and greater use of firewood as a sustainable and clean energy source (when properly managed and combusted).
8 Guidance on what to do with felled or fallen ash trees Landscape and Ecological Resilience Group (LERG) A gap in current guidance.

Annex 1.

Devon’s response to ash dieback: achievements, progress and planned activities, to date (December 2020)

A. Forward planning, partnership building and joint working
  1. Devon Ash Dieback Action Plan produced (Feb 2016).
  2. Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum established (July 2016), to raise awareness, provide advice, manage the risks posed by the disease, and spearhead measures to mitigate its environmental and safety impacts.
  3. Landscape and Ecological Resilience Group (LERG) formed (Sept 2016), as part of the Forum, to promote measures to counter the impact of the diseases on landscape, wildlife and ecosystem services.
  4. Saving Devon’s Treescapes project developed and started (March 2020), to help maintain the quality of our landscapes (both in rural and built-up areas). A partnership project led by the Devon Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Forum, it has successfully gained Development Phase grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.  Substantial funding has been offered by from Devon County Council, with financial and other contributions from several other partners (total partner offers £530K).  Project lead (Rosie Cotgreave) appointed March 2020.  The Development Phase will run until May 2021: if successful in gaining NHLF funding, the Delivery Phase will run from July 2021 to June 2025. The project’s key aims are to:
    1. Awaken interest in Devon’s Treescapes and engage people in their long-term care: 3 new community tree nurseries, free tree scheme, 100 schools engaged, 80 community events, 45 Trees Outside Woodlands (TOW) workshops, 2 sustainable woodfuel supply hubs, new volunteer groups in five priority areas (see below).
    2. Safeguard the future of Devon’s Treescapes and their wildlife: 360 advisory visits, 150km of existing hedges enhanced.
    3. Establish more trees in the landscape and enhance connectivity: Champion 3-2-1 formula, 427 landmark trees planted (one for each parish), 250,000 new urban and rural TOWs, 50ha of TOWs in field corners and copses, 20 km of new Flagship hedges, 12,000 hedgerow saplings tagged, 4/5km wild fruit routes in urban landscapes.

50% of resources will be spent within five focus areas: Coly Valleys (East Devon AONB), Neroche (Blackdown Hills AONB), Exeter and Cranbrook (new town), Torbay, and South Devon.

Project web page at

The project was formally launched at an orchard-planting ceremony at Westpoint on 5 October 2020.

Progress to date includes: A community nursery has been constructed at Meeth and volunteers recruited: seed collection has started. Film maker commissioned to promote the project. FWAGSW has completed many farm advisory visits to help secure project tree planting, hedge, etc, targets. DBRC has developed a tree recording app.  A TreeWorks Fund has been established, and plans developed to create several new small woodlands. c.15 schools are engaged and planning activities. Demand for trees is outstripping supply!

Covid-19 restrictions have severely restricted community engagement, but so far most other development phase activities have been able to go ahead more or less as scheduled.

 B. Communication and guidance
  1. Communication plan written and agreed by forum members (October 2019).
  2. Website built and launched (2019). This provides a wide range of guidance and resources.
  3. Information on surveying trees, risk assessment and safe working are provided on the website, including advice on when to take action to render trees safe (based in part on canopy cover).
  4. Advice notes produced by LERG for farmers, and on increasing treescape resilience, the natural capital of ash, appropriate replacement trees, safeguarding protected species and habitats, and on engaging contractors.  These have been summarised in a key messages note.
 C. Campaigns
  1. 3-2-1 principle This has been endorsed by DCC and a range of other bodies.
  2. My Tree, My Responsibility campaign launched (2019), to ensure landowners are aware that it is their responsibility to ensure trees alongside highways are safe, including inspection and felling where necessary. This campaign includes an online video and printed promotion in postcard format.
  3. Savings Devon’s Treescape – see above.
 D. Local authority action
  1. Devon County Council has allocated substantial resources towards addressing the threat the disease poses both to highways users and to the landscape, as well as to its own estate and direct responsibilities (e.g. schools). Demands placed on the County’s budget by the response to Covid-19 may, however, make this allocation unsustainable.
  2. To reduce costs and hassle to landowners, where roads have to be closed for tree felling, DCC is offering landowners the opportunity to have their trees felled at cost.
  3. Plymouth City Council has received funding from the Woodland Trust for the ‘Plymouth Tree Challenge’ including a city wide iTree survey, Street tree planting projects, and establishment of a small-scale Community Tree Nursery. PCC and partners also received 5M euros of funding from EU’s Urban Innovative Actions(UIA) for the city’s ‘Green Minds’ project: work packages for urban re-wilding include the UK’s first urban beaver re-introduction, and urban reforestation across the city.
  4. Torbay Council ?
  E. Encouraging new trees
  1. Last winter (19/20), 40 land managers received free tree packs with 45 trees each provided by DCC in association with the Woodland Trust, and 30 parish and town councils collected a free landmark tree funded by DCC. These two schemes were both massively oversubscribed, demonstrating demand and successful promotion mechanisms.
 F. Monitoring disease spread and impact
  1. Sample surveys have been carried out by DCC to determine prevalence of the disease in ashes alongside roads across each district/borough/city in the county, excepting the unitary authorities of Plymouth and Torbay.
  2. Recording Devon’s landscapes and special ash trees. Limited action has been taken in advance of the full impact of the diseases.  A trial is being conducted in East Devon to assess the effectiveness of fixed-point photography  at recording landscape changes.  SDT has purchased 25 Landscape Photography kits. People are being encouraged to submit photographs and records of ancient ash trees and others of particular cultural or wildlife importance to the Devon Biodiversity Recording Centre.  DBRC on behalf of SDT has developed an app to facilitate recording of notable trees and also ashes which are showing resistance to the disease. The app will be developed to support recording of key flagship species associated with ashes.
  3. Beaford Arts, as part of Saving Devon’s Treescapes, has commissioned a photographer to record special ash trees and landscapes in the county.
 G. Cultural aspects
  1. An art project ‘arborealists’ is underway focusing on a roadside line of ash trees at Buckland-in-the-Moor within Dartmoor National Park.
  2. A new ash dieback storytelling piece (‘The World Tree’) has been developed by Lisa Schneidau, and on behalf of Beaford Arts she presented it to 6 community groups in October 2020.
 H. Knowledge exchange outside Devon
  1. Established good links with the Tree Council, which is playing a leading role coordinating national effort on behalf of Defra.
  2. Gathered some direct intelligence from the experiences of places elsewhere in England where the diseases arrived earlier.

Many DADBRF members have contributed to this refresh, thanks to all and especially for contributions from the South Hams Society and Devon Wildlife Trust.  The work was commissioned by Devon County Council.

Robert Wolton

December 2020

The information on this page is available as a Devon Ash Dieback Action Plan Refresh 2021 PDF.