The Parish Council has tree surveys undertaken on its parish-owned sites every three years, and the latest one was undertaken in February 2023. The reports were received, and some further testing done on highlighted trees as recommended by the team surveying the sites. The Parish Council recently appointed a professional Tree Officer on a one-year contract, and the first part of their role is to review the surveys and suggest a plan of works across all the sites.
Unfortunately, in Homefield Park it has been identified through the tree survey and subsequent Tree Officer review that there are five trees which need to be removed. All the trees are sycamores and have sooty bark disease which weakens and eventually kills the tree – they are all either already dead or dying. The disease can lie dormant in a tree, but the hot weather last year, followed by the wet weather this year, has allowed the disease to flourish, and more trees in general have now been found to be badly affected than are reflected in the surveys earlier in the year.
It is not always necessary to remove dead or dying trees and in fact, if possible, it is good to leave standing dead wood which is excellent for biodiversity. However, because these trees are in a prominent location next to a public footpath and near residential properties, the Nature and Biodiversity Committee has taken the decision to urgently fell the five trees. Whilst we often would leave a monolith in place for biodiversity, because of the sooty bark disease it has been decided to fully fell the trees on this occasion, but this is something that is under review for future management plans, particularly as this disease is becoming more widespread. We have applied via our contractor to South Cambs District Council for a five-day notice which allows dead, diseased, dying or dangerous trees with a Tree Protection Order on them to be worked on more quickly. As soon as the permission is granted, the work will be undertaken, and local residents will be informed of the date this will take place. The Parish Council have a policy of replacing every tree felled with two new trees on the same site, if suitable, or otherwise another site in the Parish.
The Committee is planning to review the rest of the survey recommendations, working with the Tree Officer’s site visit feedback, in order to prioritise work and make decisions as to the way forward with the work. We want to engage residents on this as much as we can and more information on this will follow.