South Ayrshire Council has added a disease threatening the area's trees - and the people walking, cycling or driving underneath them - to its register of stretegic risks.

While many may not think a tree disease would rank alongside these other issues, the council has pointed out that falling trees affected by ash dieback could injure or even kill.

It is this threat, along with costs of addressing the issue, that has forced officials to add it to its register.

A report to the authority's leadership panel on Tuesday stated: “The issue relates to a widespread horticultural disease impacting ash trees throughout South Ayrshire that may result in a range of financial, safety and reputational risks to the organisation.

“It has been agreed that this issue should be added to the strategic risk register due to the wide reaching and significant implications it may have for the council as a whole.”

The report describes the potential impacts such as:

  • Fatality or injury to residents and employees;
  • Damage to property, listed structures, headstones, power and phone lines;
  • Falling ash trees' branches on roads and pavements in public open space and schools
  • Increased flooding where ash trees stabilise river banks

The report points out that this risk would lead to increased council liability, and to increased costs to mitigate the risks, such as replanting and recruiting specialists.

In October, South Ayrshire Council announced that it was working in partnership with East Ayrshire Council and the Ayrshire Roads Alliance to develop a plan to tackle the disease.

Ash dieback is caused by a fast spreading, wind-borne fungus that was first discovered in the UK in 2012.

Diseased trees must be identified and removed when they become a danger to the public, especially where they are in close proximity to targets such as roads, footpaths, buildings, car parks or play areas.

A programme of replanting will form part of SAC’s ash dieback plan to repopulate affected areas, and to mitigate the environmental impact the disease will have on the tree population of South Ayrshire.

Councillor Ian Cochrane, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said: “Residents may see a significant change to our landscape in the coming years due to the spread of ash dieback in South Ayrshire.”