AN East Lancashire local authority is compiling a register of ash trees as the first stage of an action plan to deal with a growing infection killing them.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is surveying the threatened plants across the borough.

The results will be used to check on them for ash dieback disease so the most severely affected can be cut down.

The council's new Ash Dieback Action Plan (ADAP) is revealed in a report by its director of place Martin Eden to the authority's Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

It says:  "Ash trees are the third most common tree in Britain.

"It is estimated that there are more than 60 million ash trees outside woodlands in the UK and that the majority will become affected with ash dieback in years to come.

"The ash dieback disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback. The disease does not cause rapid or catastrophic failure of trees. Any danger from dead or dying trees is likely to be gradual.

"Once a tree is infected, the disease is usually fatal.

"To mitigate the risks, it is recommended that local authorities prepare an Ash Dieback Action Plan (ADAP).

"The first stage in developing the ADAP is to identify the number and the condition of ash trees on council-owned public open space land and on or near the highway.

"The council has a significant number of ash trees in its parks and open spaces and adjacent to highways.

"As landowner, the council has a responsibility for the safety of users of the highway network and users of our parks and open spaces.

"Once the council has a register of trees and has identified which trees are affected, the appropriate works will be programmed to take place utilising the council’s three-person tree team and, if necessary, also contracting tree works to private sector arborists.

"Public safety must be the top priority when inspecting trees and assessing what action to take.

"Examples of locations where trees may present high levels of risks are: roads, car parks, railways, well-used public spaces, parks, playgrounds, school grounds and public right of ways.

"Trees in these locations should be inspected most regularly.

"As one of the main symptoms of ash dieback is leaf loss, it is recommended to inspect for symptoms in the summer (June to September) when ash trees are in leaf."