SHEFFIELD Council said it will not be challenging the Forestry Commission on its orders to fell more than 1,000 larch trees at a beauty spot despite increasing pressure. 

Wyming Brook Nature Reserve, in west Sheffield, is home to babbling streams, mossy crags, sweet-smelling pines and abundant wildlife but it could soon look like a “post-apocalyptic landscape” according to campaigners.

The FC served a Statutory Plant Health Notice (SPHN) to Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust forcing it to chop down hundreds of larch trees after they contracted Phytophthora ramorum – a non-native, fungus-like disease.

There is no cure and it is the Commission’s policy to destroy trees in the infected area – including healthy trees – as quickly as possible to prevent spreading. 

Work started in September and is expected to be completed by Christmas. 

An anonymous campaigner launched a petition last month month urging council leader Tom Hunt to challenge the SPHN and call a moratorium to suspend work. 

Nearly 1,800 people have signed the petition at the time of writing. 

The council, which owns the land, has now confirmed its position.  

Councillor Richard Williams, chair of the communities, parks and leisure committee, said: “We own this land and although we lease it to Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, the council is under a legal duty to comply with this notice.

“’We continue to work with the Forestry Commission and other organisations, and we are discussing the approach to pest and disease management with them, including Phytophthora ramorum.”

A spokesperson for Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust said it is expected to have an “unavoidable dramatic effect” on the landscape but there was nothing it could do to save them.

Roy Mosley, head of conservation and land management, said: “Over the last year we’ve been open and honest about the planned works on site; sharing articles, putting up signs and talking to visitors about this terrible fungus attacking larches on site.

“Fortunately, the SPHN doesn’t cover the whole site and larches only make up a small proportion of the overall mixed, broadleaf-conifer woodland.

“As such, we think the integrity of the woodland overall will be maintained, and due to this action, larch trees outside the SPHN area (on the reserve and beyond) may not succumb to the disease.

“We also expect, in time, that trees will fill the spaces created through natural regeneration creating a diverse, resilient woodland.”

In some cases, the Trust is considering ring-barking certain trees to create a standing deadwood resource.

Phytophthora ramorum, a microscopic fungal-like organism that causes extensive damage and death to various species, was found in several Sheffield sites.

The name translates as “plant destroyer” and it was responsible for some of the worst plant epidemics in history, including the infamous Irish potato famine in the 19th century, according to Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.