Officer Decisions

Head of Digital Transformation and Business Support - Meg Booth, Rob Parkhouse

Summary of Matter or Issue Requiring Decision:

Further to the report taken to Cabinet on 16th May 2018 – HIW/18/32
Proposal in response to the emergence of Ash Dieback, to increase the frequency of scheduled tree safety inspections on both Devon County Council premises, and the higher category Devon County Council maintained highways network, from the current three yearly cycle to a two-year cycle with the option to locally increase to an annual inspection where necessitated by the severity of the outbreak.

Decision Taken:

Approved

Summary of Reason(s) for Decision Taken:

The earliest recorded outbreak of Ash Dieback disease in Devon was recorded at a plantation at Bickleigh on Exe in 2013. By 2017 Forestry Commission monitoring showed the disease to be present in all Districts in Devon. The disease is generally spreading from the East of the country to the West, but information on how quickly the disease affects trees is still in its infancy and seems to be very variable. Trees can go from showing little indication of disease to being seriously affected within a very few years. It is expected that in the region of ninety percent of all ash tree will eventually succumb to the disease.

During 2017 Devon County Council also carried out spot checks for Ash Dieback across the County. Seven 1 km lengths of road of various categories were walked in each District Council area to produce a snapshot of the disease’s’ progress across the county. These identified a decline on the Ash trees in the Bickleigh area and on the East of Exeter. From this a further safety inspection was commissioned in both areas and revealed that the disease had spread to infect roadside trees., None of the trees were considered to be imminently dangerous by the inspector, but were classed as requiring felling within 6 months, and this was achieved. The Bickleigh area had been inspected 17 months before.

It is therefore considered that the risk posed by Ash-dieback on high-risk area will no longer be adequately mitigated by having a three-yearly inspection of Devon County Council premises and the higher category Devon County Council maintained highway network. It is therefore recommended that a two-yearly inspection is now required and where trees have already been felled due to Ash die-back and further trees remain within a high-risk target area, that these should be inspected annually.

Summary of Alternatives or Options considered and rejected:

Continue with three yearly tree safety inspections to Premises and major Devon County Council maintained highways.
This option was rejected on the basis that
a) Ash dieback infected trees decline so rapidly that trees showing no symptoms in the year of inspection will have declined to a point where they are already a danger to the public, staff, clients, the highways network, and felling operatives by the time they are next inspected in three years’ time.
b) that there is evidence that the number of trees infected and geographical area affected is now large enough to pose a significant risk

Increase frequency of inspection to annually, Countywide.

This was rejected on the basis that outside the high risk target area there was not enough evidence to support this approach. This will however be kept under review as the results of this years surveys come in, and may be the subject of a future Decision.

Contact for enquiries/further information: Chris Cranston, Jon WIlliams
Decision Date: 29 June 2018

A copy of this decision and any supporting documentation considered by the Officer taking this decision may also be made available or inspection by the public at the Council’s Offices or posted upon payment of any copying and postage charges. Any member of the public wishing to take up either of these options is asked to please ring 01392 382888 or email: members.services@devon.gov.uk