A FUNGAL disease is wiping out Britain's trees as forests across the nation are felled to stop the problem spreading writes John Bett.

Ash dieback, or Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, is a fungus which originated in Asia and was introduced to Europe about 30 years ago and can be deadly to British trees.

The threat is so severe that it is predicted the fungus will wipe out 95 per cent of British Ash Trees, if it is left unchecked.

Now, forests around the UK are being felled to prevent the spread of the disease - including one in Torquay, Devon, and another in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Most of the trees in The Willows, known as Furzebrake Plantation, in Torquay will have to be cut down from February onwards.

Much of the timber will be sold to cover the cost of the work being done.

Torbay Council, said: "As part of our continued surveying of trees on Council owned land, we have unfortunately identified a woodland in The Willows known as Furzebrake Plantation infected by Ash Dieback, which means most of the trees in this area will be removed.

READ MORE: Ash trees to be removed across Devon

"Many trees have already fallen over and others are now showing signs of dying back in the top section of the canopy.

"Many of the trees currently showing early stage infection either hang over private properties or are within falling distance, so unfortunately this means that action is required for health and safety reasons."

Ash Dieback has become a growing problem across the UK in recent years.

In Torquay, it is estimated that over the next two years between 1000 to 2000 trees will need to be removed from high risk areas at an estimated cost of more than £400,000.

In Salisbury, around 14,000 trees are set to be felled after contracting a viral fungal disease.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), which looks after the Ministry of Defence's estates, says infected ashes across 250 locations will be removed.

This is to protect uninfected trees, and a replanting scheme will also take place to replace those trees which are cut down.

Working in partnership with contractor Landmarc, felling will begin imminently.

Jeremy Kalkowski, DIO's senior forester, said: "We are working closely with Landmarc, the Forestry Commission and Natural England to protect the public and estate users, remove hazards and reduce the impact on the wider environment. Where possible, we will use this as an opportunity to enrich and improve our woodland resource.

"We are felling the minimum number of trees to reduce risk to an acceptable level and only in areas where there is a clear risk of harm to people.

"The MOD takes conservation very seriously and we are committed to completing a replanting scheme to replace felled ash trees with a range of native species trees."

There is currently no cure or treatment for the Ash Dieback, and over time infected trees will weaken, causing branches to fall and trees to eventually collapse and die.

Infection can lead to the death of young trees in just two to three years and of mature trees within three to five years.

Chris Sorensen, south west woodland resilience officer, from the Forestry Commission said: "Since ash dieback was identified in 2012, we have been working with a range of stakeholders and have invested more than £37million into tree health research, including funding research into the biology and pathology of the disease.

"We encourage all owners of woodland to think strategically about the management of their ash trees and adopt best practice to help reduce the impact of the disease.

"The DIO consulted with us and agreed a plan of action to tackle this damaging tree disease which includes the commencement of felling operations in the interests of public safety."

Judith Peachey, Landmarc's forestry harvesting and marketing and arboriculture advisor added: "Sadly, the felling of trees with Ash Dieback is a necessary step to protect the public and all other training estate users.

"We would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank our local communities for their support by adhering to any site safety signs and not entering any areas where forestry work is taking place.

"Trees are only being felled where we must and unaffected trees will remain to support the biodiversity associated with ash."