HYNDBURN Council is felling trees affected with a new, untreatable disease to stop them falling into roads.

Experts cannot stop the disease hitting poplars and the council has already been forced to cut down 'a number' of the trees growing in Accrington Cemetery.

The disease is thought to have originated in the Greater Manchester area about four years ago and is affecting tress throughot the North West. Trees in Hyndburn were quickly affected, but have taken a number of years to show symptoms. It is thought 30 have been felled so far.

Now the council is monitoring trees along roads to make sure none are in danger of shedding branches or falling into highways.

Mark Cocks, the council's trees and woodlands officer, said: "It has been in Hyndburn for about three years. The way the disease works is that it attacks the leaves first. It kills them off and spreads throughout the rest of the tree.

"You might just notice in passing that that the leaves are thinning, then it gets thinner, then there are some areas without the leaves on completely.

"It's another one of these diseases that we haven't been looking for until we realise it's here. A lot of people in the forestry industry think that these are climate change effects. But it's very very difficult to pin it down and prove why these things are happening."

The borough is already blighted by diseased horse chestnut trees, and in recent years these have had to be felled in large numbers as part of a regional problem.

The new disease, thought to be the fungus poplar scab or poplar blight, can leave trees weak.

Since the 1960s few poplars have been planted in public places for safety reasons, but a large number still exist in locations including cemeteries and parks.

Hyndburn Council has also been forced to fell about a dozen trees in private land overlooking roads.

Locations have also been identified where more felling is needed, including Whalley Road, Great Harwood.

Mr Cocks said: "There is nothing that we can do. If we were treating a small case of fungi on shrubs or flowers you can spray the plants but we cannot do that with a tree - you end up with fungicide all over the road and paths.

"There is nothing the tree can be inoculated with. It cannot be protected, and it's something we really just have to let happen."