The Trust will selectively fell Ash trees within thirty metres of public footpaths, bridleways, roads and boundaries to neighbouring properties.
Surrey Wildlife Trust has been granted the appropriate permissions by the Forestry Commission and Natural England. It has instructed specialist contractors to carry out the work using forest machinery, which fells the trees and takes the branches off mechanically. Due to the scale of Ash trees and their infection with the disease at Norbury Park this machinery is required.
While public safety remains the key concern, the Trust is prioritising felling during winter to minimise disruption to wildlife and appropriate procedures are being followed by the Trust for the protection of species. The works have been carefully designed in close co-operation with the statutory agencies. Ecological surveys have been carried out on the areas identified for selective felling to check for the presence of bats, badgers and dormice, to ensure the appropriate mitigation measures are followed.
This includes walkover surveys on trees with bat roosting potential and trees that are to be retained for ecological interests will be marked to be retained and undisturbed.
Operational signage has been put onsite prior to work starting. While all efforts will be made to avoid using paths and tracks during the woodland operations and to keep pathways open, there will be some temporary diversions. As the works are taking place during winter the machinery will cause some disturbance to tracks and pathways. However, tracks and paths will be re-instated after the works are completed.
James Adler, Director of Land Management at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘The nature of the works means that some trees will be removed in visible areas, so views will change and in the short term the woodlands will look different. We apologise for any inconvenience caused during these works. However, when faced with the threat of dangerous trees falling upon pathways, we have no other choice, as a responsible land manager, to take action and fell trees rather than leave the public at risk.’
He continued: ‘Through the removal of ash within tree safety zones we will be opening up rides and glades within the woodland. This will bring more light to the forest floor, so butterflies, orchids and other wildlife species can benefit. The managed areas within the woodlands will also naturally regenerate with a range of tree species.’
Ash dieback was first discovered in the UK in 2012 and the disease is now affecting Ash trees across the country. It is a disease which causes Ash trees to die prematurely. Diseased trees are also more susceptible to a secondary infection called honey fungus, which damages root systems. The presence of both Ash dieback and honey fungus increases the risk of Ash trees dying and becoming unstable. Other land owners including local borough councils, charities, private estates and individuals are also undertaking actions to manage their ash trees.