New Forest residents are being advised to be wary of potential rogue traders posing as tree surgeons.
The warning has been issued by the Safer New Forest Partnership in the wake of the outbreak of ash dieback disease, known as Chalara ash dieback.
Doorstep callers claiming to be tree surgeons have been operating in the district offering to fell householders’ trees immediately for cash.
Hythe and Dibden community safety officer Norman Bareham raised the concern.
“I am hearing some alarming tales about vulnerable members of our community having men with trucks and ladders knocking on their door and telling them that their tree is affected by ash dieback and they need to have it taken down, very quickly, for cash.”
New Forest District Council portfolio holder for housing and communities, Councillor Jill Cleary, added: “While there are legitimate tree surgeons, we are aware of rogue traders hoping to take advantage of vulnerable members of our community. Be alert to this and look out for neighbours and relatives that might be vulnerable.”
If you think you have spotted the ash dieback disease, you should first refer to the Forestry Commission’s website, which has information on how to spot the disease, its symptoms and details on how to report it, visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara
A Forestry Commission spokesman said: “The Forestry Commission is keen to highlight that we are NOT requiring infected mature ash trees to be cut down immediately because they take a long time to die of the disease, are valuable to wildlife in the meantime, and they can help us to spot Chalara-resistant strains of ash trees whose seed might form the foundation of future generations of ash trees in the British landscape.
“Of course we would advise removal or pruning of a diseased tree which is becoming unsafe. No Chalara has yet been confirmed in the New Forest.”
Julian Johnson, chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, added: “The New Forest National Park Authority is fully supportive of the Forestry Commission in managing the outbreak of Chalara fraxinea. We have offered our services to help with surveys and to help get information out to local communities.”
The Safer New Forest Partnership suggests that residents without access to a computer should pop into their local library or ask a family member or friend to look for more information online.
Residents should always ask for ID from anyone who knocks on their door. They can be verified by calling Hampshire County Council’s Trading Standards Quick Response Team on 01962 833666.
If uncertain, residents should not let them inside their home and if they are persistent or won’t depart when asked, residents are advised to call the police by dialling 999.
Cllr Maureen Robinson, Hythe and Dibden parish council chairman, said: “We are appalled by this criminal behaviour of people preying particularly on the more vulnerable members of our community.
Hythe and Dibden Parish Council ACSOs are working with our community to keep us safer; if you need any further information please call them on 023 8084 2111.”
‘No cold calling’ stickers are available from New Forest District Council and Hampshire County Council information offices or by contacting Community Safety co-ordinator Stephanie Bennett on 023 8028 5588, email firstname.lastname@example.org