SCORCHING hot weather has helped to spread disease amongst Brighton and Hove’s prized elm collection with at least four felled in parks last week.

Three elms at The Level and a giant Wheatley elm in Preston Park have been detected with disease and will also have to be cut down.

Tree expert Rob Greenland warned infection in Preston Park and the hot weather could put the park’s prized assets, the record-breaking 350-year-old Preston Twins, at greater risk depending on how the infection was first spread.

Brighton and Hove is home to the National Collection of elms with more than 17,000 trees.

The trees are being felled to ensure infection does not spread to other trees while a further four in The Level are being pruned.

Council staff are also working to sever connecting roots between trees which can also provide a route for the fungus to spread.

It is believed the beetles that caused the infections have come from a hidden dying elm tree in a private back garden, or from elm logs or other elm timber where beetles can breed.

Residents are now being urged to be vigilant and to contact the council with any concerns.

Mr Greenland, who was council arboriculturist in Brighton for 40 years, said: “It is right in the middle of infection season and the hot weather would have increased beetle movements.

“Unfortunately with so many prime trees in the city, they are really large so when they do get infected it is very, very noticeable.

“Because of the age of these older trees they are not in the best of health.

“In the hot weather, trees are transpiring more and pumping the fluids round but also pumping the infection around as well.

“It means that for infections that might have been pruned out in normal temperatures, by the time arboriculturists find it, the infection might have progressed much further.”

He added: “Infection in Preston Park does not necessarily mean that the Twins are more at risk, it depends on the cause of the infection.

“If it was an airborne infection, the disease could be restricted to just the felled tree.

“If it was from a source of logs or from a diseased tree in a resident’s garden, there is the potential that it could be a threat to them.

“I’m sure City Parks would be more than happy to receive any calls from people with elms in their gardens or anyone with elm logs and happily swap them.”

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “We remain ever vigilant to contain the spread of elm disease and we’re also deeply grateful to our residents for their help.

“The council has for many years fully funded an internationally recognised control campaign to contain the spread of the disease in the city.

“Losses to elm disease have been manageable throughout the years, with the city having a growing elm population that is always being added too.

“New, highly resistant elms are being developed and planted and we are proud of our success to date.”

Anyone with firewood or timber or a dying elm tree in their garden can have it checked for free by council experts by calling 01273 292929.