Deadly tree disease is devastating woodland at a Preston school

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Picturesque woodland in the grounds of a Preston school is being decimated by a deadly tree disease.

Ash dieback has been discovered in more than 60 ash trees in a picturesque wooded area at St Andrew’s CofE Primary School in Tulketh Road, Ashton.

Lancashire County Council has submitted a planning application to have all of the affected trees cut down and removed to prevent danger to pupils, staff and the public.

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But the operation is certain to have a devastating effect on the woods, known by schoolchildren as the “Wilderness.”

St Andrew's School where 65 trees will have to be axed.St Andrew's School where 65 trees will have to be axed.
St Andrew's School where 65 trees will have to be axed.

County Hall experts who have visited the woodland say the trees are now in a "poor" condition. The disease is incurable and the only option is to fell them and take them away.

Two of those to be axed are on the edge of the school playing fields adjacent to Tulketh Road. The remaining 63 are within the wooded area between the school field and the neighbouring headquarters of the charity Caritas Care Ltd.

Highly destructive ash dieback is a fungus which was first detected in Lancashire in 2012 and is now thought to be present in 96 per cent of the county.

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LCC has been surveying all roads in the county to record where ash trees are and what level of infection they are showing.

An LCC spokesman said: "We have been working closely with St Andrews Primary School for some time to monitor the condition of ash trees on the site which are affected by ash dieback, a highly destructive disease which is now present across 96 per cent of Lancashire.

"Unfortunately there is no cure for the disease, and it is fatal in the majority of cases.

"The ash trees at St Andrews Primary School are now in such a poor condition that they need to be felled to address the potential risk to people's safety. As the school site is within a conservation area we are applying to Preston City Council for permission to fell them.

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"People have a duty to ensure their trees do not become a risk to people or property, and we would urge anyone with ash trees on their property to look at the information on our website to learn how to recognise the symptoms of the disease, and take advice from a suitably qualified arboriculturist."

Across the North West it is estimated almost five million trees are at risk from the disease.

Tell-tale signs include dead or dying tops pf trees, dark patches on leaves which then wilt and turn black. There are also dark brown lesions on the tree where branches meet the trunk.

Ash dieback is the worst tree disease to hit the UK since Dutch Elm Disease in the late 1970's which effectively wiped out mature elms from the British landscape.

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