We are grateful to Paula Chatfield of Parklands RA for drawing everyone’s attention to the planning application (see 15/04096/TCA below) that has been made to fell the remaining “over-mature” horse chestnut tree on Westgate at the end of Parklands Road due to infestation by honey fungus. It is very likely that it will be felled this March.

Here is the reference if you want to take a look:

Reference: 15/04096/TCA
Application Type: Tree in Conservation Area
Address: Land East Of Parklands Road, Westgate, Chichester, West Sussex,
PROPOSAL: Notification of intention to fell 1 no. Horse Chestnut tree
Date Application Valid: 09/12/2015
Distance: 378 metres away
Show 15/04096/TCA on map

What is concerning our Tree Wardens (Paula is one) about this application, is its cursory nature, with no indication of how the land will be managed/replanted. This chestnut is what is known in the trade as a landmark tree, indeed there were two such landmark trees on this site up until 2003, on a site that can support big trees which is what our cities need, particularly if they are native.

All this is subject to the confirmation that this is honey fungus and the implications. Honey fungus is a devastating tree sickness. Several residents will have experiences of having had to have a tree felled because of it. Even when an infected tree is felled, the fungus can keep appearing every year in the stump, so if the rest of the trees surrounding this site are to be safe, it is going to need more than just the felling of one tree. Honey fungus has been known to kill ornamental trees that are even 30 yards apart, yet interestingly to  spare a native oak nearby.

There is a lot of concern that unless this tree is felled and its root system eradicated too, the holm oak nearby and the trees on the old brewery site, perhaps including the magnificent old plane tree in front of the house, could also become infected and have to be felled.

We can be pretty sure that most local people love this huge old tree, so we could mobilise comment on the planning application, if it is well-informed. Chichester Tree Wardens will be taking a formal view on this application on our behalf, as it may well set a precedent for the management of big landmark trees in straitened times, as our previous article has already said, and how felling proposals are brought forward, even if unavoidable.

Information from the tree wardens

Geoff King, who is one of the lead tree wardens in Chichester, has written in to say that:

The Horse Chestnut  tree is the responsibility of the County.  Graham Mundie in submitting this application for felling on the grounds of its severity of decline did not propose a replacement tree.
Tree Wardens and other members of the public should as a matter of course advocate for replacement trees where trees are felled and that they should be potentially as large as possible.  This should apply universally whether it be on publicly owned land including service industries and housing associations or privately owned land.
We should also inspect carefully landscaping schemes for new developments for named species and potential size, as gardens are in the main too small for decent sized trees to be planted. The odd pieces of land shared by the community need to be retained in large enough parcels to allow for the larger trees to be planted.
One should also highlight the sad realities of the invasive characteristics of Honey Fungus. Horse Chestnuts have been hit particularly hard through premature leaf fall due to Leaf Minor Moths and other pathogens which have over a number of years  affected the trees’ health. Honey Fungus is everywhere.
Safely removing the fruiting bodies of the Honey Fungus is a must.  If possible cleaning away immediate soil is also a must.  This may delay the spread.   (In the past fortnight I have cut away bark from the affected areas of my own garden apple tree and have reduced the canopy to hopefully extend its life.)  
Replanting on land where Honey Fungus has been present is not straight forward either. In the New Year I propose that this topic be explored further. There is considerable information and advice to be called upon.

An encouraging response from West sussex County Council

Very helpfully, Julie Bolton at the County Council has responded to clarify things:

The intention certainly is to replace this tree, and with a species that will ultimately be large, e.g. a pin or red oak but this hasn’t been decided yet.

Honey fungus [Armillaria sp.] is very common, or at least A. mellea is, and seems to exploit trees that are already weakened or stressed in some way – responding to clever chemical signals! There are several species, not all of them strongly pathogenic. The fungus grows through and kills the phloem and cambium and later invades and decays the wood. The tree dies once it is girdled at the root collar or as the result of extensive root killing, and this will be evident by the response in the crown [thinning, dead / dying branches, sparse, small leaves etc].

This link* is good for images, particularly the rhizomorphs, and underneath bark a sheet of white mycelium can often be seen – this can be extensive and is very characteristic of HF. Airborne spores can give rise to new infections, but spread is usually by rhizomorphs, however, the presence of these around the roots or stem base of a living tree is not proof of the presence of decay. If decay is extensive in the roots there is a high chance of windthrow.

In such a restricted area, it is going to be impossible to remove all infected material, but as much as is practicable will be disposed of. HF poses little threat to healthy trees [but cannot be ruled out completely] so the aim will be to keep the new one healthy!

The value of available chemical control measures [e.g. Armillatox] is dubious, but some soil fumigants can be useful in killing the fungus in tree stumps.

The committee is interested in your views.

See link *: http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/armillaria-mellea.php


Colin Hicks

Site Admin - Westgate Residents' Association Chichester

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