Thousands of trees to be felled in Yorkshire woodland to stop spread of 'deadly' disease

A swathe of trees in an ancient woodland will be chopped down to prevent the spread of a deadly disease.

The Forestry Commission has issued a notice to Bradford Council urging them to remove trees infected with Larch Tree Disease from the St Ives Estate in Bingley. The disease can be deadly to trees, and Bradford Council’s Trees and Woodlands team will begin clearing the infected trees early next month – a process that is likely to last six months. Around 4,000 trees are likley to be felled as part of the work.

Many of the trees to be felled were planted in the 1940s to replace trees cut down to provide timber for the war effort. The disease mostly affects larch and sweet chestnut but is also hosted by rhododendron and is highly infectious, causing ‘sudden death’ in trees.

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The Forestry Commission has this week issued a Statutory Plant Health Notice requiring the Council to fell diseased trees to prevent it spreading to other commercial forest plantations. Invasive rhododendron, which is a host for the disease, will also be cleared at the same time, as part of a plan to regenerate the ancient native woodland which dates back to the early 19th Century.

Thousands of trees are set to be felledThousands of trees are set to be felled
Thousands of trees are set to be felled

The work will be carried out at the western side of the estate, between Coppice Pond and Keighley Road known as Lady Blantyre’s Wood. Some trees will also be removed from Bingley St Ives Golf Club to the North. Felling operations are expected to begin on March 1 and be completed by September 1.

The felled trees will be dealt with by contractors licensed to handle infected trees, and sent away for processing in to saw logs, fencing and woodchip. The work will mean that some routes and areas of woodland will be closed when machines are operating.

The Keighley Road entrance will be closed Monday to Friday to visitors and through traffic, but will be open during the weekends. The free car parking at the Keighley Road side and the pay and display at Coppice Pond will be suspended until the works are completed. The Bingley Road entrance free parking and pay and display at Low Park, play area and golf club public car parking will operate as normal.

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The footpaths and bridleways running through Lady Blantyre’s Wood and Coppice Pond will be closed Monday to Friday whilst forestry operations are in progress. No disruption to golfers on the estate is expected. St Ives was first struck with the disease in 2014 when Betty’s Woodland was cleared. This area was restocked with both planted and naturally regenerating native trees.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for healthy people and places said: “We appreciate that the felling will cause some disruption to visitors to St Ives and it will dramatically alter its appearance until regeneration and new planting gets underway.

“We ask that everyone observes the temporary access restrictions and closures so that work can be completed quickly and safely. Once the felling is complete we will be running a number of community planting days to restock the cleared areas.”

Bob Thorp, Bradford Council’s senior parks and green spaces manager, said: “The long term plan for the estate’s woodlands is to convert them from conifer plantations back to native broadleaved woodland, similar to the early 19th Century.

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“This also involves removing the blanketing rhododendron cover, as it supresses native plants and acts a host to the disease which can affect bilberry.

“Native woodland supports more bird and animal life and is a better fit for this type of landscape. From a climate point of view the carbon captured in the felled trees will be locked away in construction timbers while the new trees will carry on the work of absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.”