Ash Dieback disease in Norbury Park

What is Ash Dieback?

Ash Dieback (ADB) is considered the most significant disease to affect the United Kingdom's tree population since Dutch Elm Disease in the 1960s and 1970s. It is expected to cause the decline and death of over 90% of ash trees in England. Sadly, the disease has advanced considerably due to the extreme climatic conditions we have experienced in the last few years.

Ash trees are the third most common native tree in the UK, found in woodlands and other landscape settings. ADB is caused by a non-native fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus that weakens a tree's structure. Infected trees often see their leaves and branches dying higher up the tree, with the tree becoming weak and unpredictable, often becoming dangerous long before they die.

Bridleway and Crabtree Lane Car Park closure update March 2024

Ash dieback presents a significant risk to public safety and as the responsible landowner for Norbury Park, Surrey County Council has a duty of care to ensure reasonable measures are implemented to minimise that risk.

In Autumn 2023 regular surveys of trees in the well-used areas showed the disease had significantly progressed along a section of Public Right of Way 22 (Bridleway) and the connecting Crabtree Lane car park.

This work had been planned for October 2024. As a consequence, the decision was taken in the interest of public safety, to temporarily close these areas along with unofficial paths (known as 'desire lines') linking to the Bridleway at nine determined locations. A formal closure of the right of way was put in place with a diversion until the risk can be sufficiently reduced.

Works to remedy such a risk within a complex and sensitive countryside site such as Norbury Park present a number of challenges, requiring a sensitive balancing act of protecting both the public and wildlife. As part of our ongoing wildlife checks at the site, an early morning bird survey was undertaken.

Our investigations highlighted evidence of nesting activity and most significantly, two Firecrests. Firecrests are a Schedule 1 bird (under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981) which affords the additional legal protection from disturbance. As such, this has helped inform our decision to delay works until the Autumn.

Whilst we aim to minimise the effects of Ash dieback on our visitor's experiences, we take protecting public safety very seriously and therefore the path, and potentially other affected areas, will need to remain closed until we are able to address the risk from the affected trees along this route. We would like to apologise to all visitors for any inconvenience this may cause.

We appreciate the invaluable role that local residents play as our eyes and ears on the ground, providing critical intelligence that aids in our management efforts at Norbury Park. The engagement and feedback from our community are fundamental components of our work, offering insights that help shape our response to challenges such as ash dieback.

Your love for the countryside and dedication to its preservation not only enrich our efforts but also ensure that we move forward with the collective welfare of both our natural environment and community at heart. We extend our thanks to all residents for their ongoing support and feedback, which continue to be instrumental in our shared commitment to safeguarding the beauty and safety of Norbury Park.

Updates will be posted on our Norbury Park visitor information webpage, through social media, on-site signage and the Council's Countryside Matters newsletter.

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