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A COUNCIL conservation manager said it was “virtually impossible” to say how much it will cost to deal with a virulent tree disease called ash dieback.

Rosie Carmichael said Carmarthenshire Council has allocated £300,000 to survey and fell affected trees over the next two years. The fungal disease spreads through wind-blown spores and makes the trees brittle, creating a hazard.

It is feared that around 90% of ash trees in the UK will end up being infected, costing the authorities billions of pounds.

Speaking at an environmental and public protection scrutiny meeting, Ms Carmichael said: “It’s virtually impossible to say how much it’s going to cost, at the moment.

“We will definitely spend £300,000 in the first two years.”

Affected trees are being tagged with an orange marker, with priority given to those posing a risk to the public, such as ash trees on council-owned land at schools, car parks and housing, and those on privately-owned land adjacent to roads and cycle paths.

Ms Carmichael said highway inspectors have been surveying A and B roads since August, and that in some cases orange ribbons had been tied to trees near the affected ash if the ash was hard to access.

Carmarthenshire has more than 2,000 miles of road, with the vast majority classified C and D.

“There is an intention to look at minor roads,” said Ms Carmichael. “We could start that next year – the trees need to be in leaf.”

The council has formed an ash dieback working group and is liaising with organisations including Natural Resources Wales, the National Farmers’ Union, and the Country Land and Business Association.

Cllr Mansel Charles said it was important to get the message out there as “the public need to know this”.

The council said landowners with diseased ash on their land will be notified by letter and advised to assess the tree’s condition further using their own qualified arborist.

In some cases, it said – particular where a tree has lost 75% of its canopy – it may be necessary to cut the tree down.

The authority also said funding was in place to employ an ash dieback project officer, and that a web page would be added to its website shortly.

An imported nursery tree initially brought the deadly disease to the UK in 2012, the BBC has reported.

Carmarthenshire Council’s director of environment Ruth Mullen said it was “extremely sad” that 90% of ash trees could die.

She said: “It is a serious problem for landowners and councils across the UK who have ash trees on their land; and where people or property are at risk the only option is to fell the affected trees.”

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