MILLIONS of trees throughout Yorkshire and Humberside are at risk of the fungal disease Ash Dieback.

Simon Rochester, a senior forestry manager at Savills in York, said that with an estimated 8.6 million Ash trees in the region at risk, land and woodland owners needed to decide how to manage their woodlands and roadside trees to manage the disease.

Research suggests that only one to five per cent of the country’s native Ash trees will have genetic tolerance to the disease.

While a breeding programme has been started to generate stocks of resilient native Ash to plant in the future in the medium term we face the near total loss of Ash from our countryside.

Ash Dieback, to which there is no cure, was first identified in the south of UK in 2012 and has spread throughout the majority of the UK.

Simon said: “There are around 8,800 hectares of woodland across Yorkshire and Humberside which have Ash as a component or the major species. Aside from the species and associated habitat loss, land and woodland owners will need to decide on how to manage their woodlands and roadside trees to manage this disease as effectively as possible.

“As you drive or walk through the region’s countryside you can see affected Ash trees along roadsides and within woodlands.

"Heavily affected trees can become brittle and unstable relatively quickly – sometimes within two to three years - making them dangerous to climb or to fell.

"This factor presents a particular problem and hazard if the trees are alongside roads, in areas of public access or near property.

“Land owners and managers who have Ash trees on the land holding have some decisions to make over their approach to the situation.

"In these circumstances safety, planning and proactive management are key.

"Where the land holding has Ash trees in public access areas, and in order to understand the magnitude of the risk posed, it would be prudent to undertake a tree safety survey to not only highlight the extent of the Ash trees location and condition but also any other tree species which pose a safety risk and requires intervention works. For example, a woodland management plan can put in place a strategy for dealing with the disease.”

According to its latest research on the forestry market, the mutual benefits of this asset class are attracting public and investors’ interest.

Savills’ Research in April showed that the value of the UK forestry investment market was just over £121 million during the 2019 forest year (October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2019).

Analysis of the 2019 sales data showed the average gross forest value increased by 17 per cent to £9,900 per hectare, which translates to an increase of 25 per cent per net productive hectare to £13,100, a trend following previous years.

Although average values provide a basis for trend and comparative analysis, forestry values are diverse and price is dependent on a range of factors, including location, accessibility, tree species, average age and timber volume/quantity.