Tree-felling project aims to boost health of flora and fauna

FUNGUS: A Commons ash tree marked for felling

RUSTHALL Common trees suffering from ash dieback are to be felled at the beginning of next month. Commons conservators hope that the measure will be healthy for both the trees and for biodiversity.

Felling will start on October 2 along the back of Colbran Way, close to The Beacon and Langton Road, with workers cutting, temporarily stacking and then removing trees which had become unsafe, the Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons team announced.

Ranger Dan Colborne had warned at the beginning of the year that local ash trees were still suffering from the invasive fungus, which causes leaf loss and damage to the crown.

Both drought and heavy rain leading to saturated ground can accelerate the decline of the trees, he said in his January report.

The Commons officers organised this autumn’s felling programme after consulting with third-party experts and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s tree officer.

“Unfortunately, the spread of the disease has shown no sign of slowing and yet again we are faced with a large number of infected trees that need to be felled to ensure the safety of our community,” they said.

“We have said it before and we will say it again… we would never cut down trees unnecessarily.”

However, Mr Colborne stressed there were benefits to reducing the ash canopy, saying: “Roadsides are the perfect place for butterflies and other pollinators and Rusthall Common really is not short of trees.”

Commons General Manager Gemma Stapely said the conservation team now had evidence that a reduction in the ash tree canopy can help pollinator insects and boost the bat population.

“One of the better places to see bats is where we took down the trees last time [in Rusthall],” she told the Times, citing the Ranger’s most recent bat survey in the area.

The trees felled will be sent to a biomass power plant, contributing energy to the community, she added.

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