FOUR in five of the ash trees in Blackburn with Darwen borough are at risk of dying from a nationwide disease.

But council bosses hope to take steps to contain the losses and to plant 30,000 new trees, mainly of native varieties, to help replace those lost.

The information is contained in a new Tree and Woodland Strategy to be debated by Blackburn with Darwen Council executive board on Thursday.

A report by environment boss Cllr Jim Smith says: "Trees are vital to our environment for a wide range of reasons.

"A Trees and Woodland Strategy is a key tool for ensuring our treescapes flourish and are protected for the future.

"Blackburn with Darwen Council owns and manages a significant amount of green space across the borough.

"The council has an obligation to manage these spaces in trust for the public and future generations.

"Trees and woodlands across Blackburn with Darwen are making a significant contribution to protecting society from the impacts of climate change through carbon sequestration, flood prevention, cooling and shading and nature conservation.

"Woodlands are sustaining and connecting wildlife-rich habitats that are valued by the borough’s residents, businesses, and visitors."

The proposed strategy says: "One of the bigger challenges that the borough is currently working hard to defend against is Ash dieback.

"We have ownership of thousands of Ash trees in the borough and could possibly face losing 80 per cent if action is not methodical.

"There is currently no cure or clear method to stop its spread, and the aim of management will be to slow the spread, minimise the impact of disease.

"We will remove infected trees and adopt a pro-active tree replacement strategy. The aim is to retain as many Ash trees as possible, where safe to do so.

"Over 15 types of additional pests and disease are also attacking our trees.

"Since 2021, over 17,000 native trees have been planted to create micro-woodlands in schools and green spaces in and around Blackburn and Darwen. The total includes 200 standard trees and 50 apple trees.

"Our current aim is to significantly increase tree planting on council land to plant 30,000 trees by 2030."

The strategy's objectives include: increasing the coverage of trees, woodland and hedgerows across the borough; ensuring new urban planting covers a variety of locations including highways, residential areas, town centres and open spaces, with greatest focus on areas with high levels of deprivation and ill health; protecting and managing the existing stock to ensure no unnecessary loss of trees; and preserving ancient woodlands, ancient and veteran trees."