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‘Ash Dieback in public urban areas is not a significant issue in County Laois’ Councillor told

“Ash Dieback in public urban areas is not a significant issue in County Laois,” local Councillors have been told.

Fine Gael Cllr Thomasina Connell had called on Laois County Council to prepare a report on the implications and plans for dealing with trees affected by Ash dieback disease in public areas.

Ash Dieback is a highly destructive fungal disease which was initially discovered in Ireland just over ten years ago.

The disease causes the tree to rot from the inside out and die and is predicted to kill off up to 90% of the ash trees on the island of Ireland.

“The situation is extremely serious and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency at both Local Authority and Government level,” Cllr Connell said.

“Ash is a hardwood but it grows significantly faster than oak or beech and is used widely in sawmills as well as being the traditional source of hurleys.

“Ash trees would have been found regularly in hedgerows along many of our roads. The fact that ash trees are now dying in such huge numbers has resulted in another problem – that of fallen trees.

“Once the ash tree dies, it simply falls down, and this has resulted in dead trees falling on to roads and footpaths causing an extremely dangerous situation for road users and pedestrians alike.

“Naturally removing fallen trees which fall in this way on to public roads will be a significant cost but one that needs to be dealt with in a formulated way and I am calling on Laois County Council to put in place measures and protocols to deal with these fallen trees.

“The Council cannot simply refer the matter of fallen trees back to the landowner as such a system would be simply unworkable and landowners cannot be expected to foot the bill for trees which have fallen onto a public road as a result of ash dieback.

“There are many trees dying from ash dieback in our public parks and open spaces which Laois County Council has a responsibility to clear away and I am asking that the same mechanism be invoked with regard to fallen trees on our roadways and paths.

“I am asking the Council today to set out in writing the manner in which it intends to deal with this urgent problem which is going to get progressively worse in the months and years ahead.

“The Government thankfully has taken a realistic approach to the issue of ash die back in terms of supports for owners of ash plantations who have lost their trees to this disease, the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme introduced in 2013.

“In a recent report from an expert group commissioned by Minister of State for Forestry Pippa Hackett TD last month it stated that Ash dieback should be treated as ‘a national emergency’.

“The initial scheme was both inadequate and insufficient when the costs of site clearance and re-planting were taken into account.

“The Government needs to put in place a meaningful compensation scheme to support efforts at re-establishing forests which is critical to rebuild trust and confidence in forestry and in particular with farmers and it is expected that details of an implementation plan will be published soon and hopefully this will address the huge issues ash dieback has caused.”

However, despite her impassioned pleas, Cllr Connell did not receive a positive response from the Council, who said:

“Ash Dieback in public urban areas is not a significant issue in County Laois, arising from the fact that the common Ash Tree has never been grown in urban areas.

“The Ash Tree is considered a more rural-type tree. If, however, an issue is identified in public parks or a housing estate etc., it will be dealt with appropriately and the Council’s Landscape Architect is available to advise and support any specific, identified, areas of concern regarding Ash Dieback.”

SEE ALSO – Local County Councillor calls for Hackney Pilot Scheme to be introduced in Laois