HORSE chestnut trees in Oxford’s Cutteslowe Park will have to be felled after they were found to have been infected with a deadly disease.

The 69 conker trees have been affected by a bacteria called ‘pseudomonas syringae pathovar aesculi’, which means Oxford City Council will have to remove them.

The council, which owns the North Oxford park, inspects all trees at three-year intervals, and it was during one of these inspections that the early signs of a bacterial infection was spotted .

City councillor Mark Lygo, executive board member for parks, sports and events, said: “It is regrettable that these trees will have to be removed. The amount of bark loss has meant that branches are likely to dry out and crack or drop without notice, which means they could become dangerous.

“We will now look at finding the most suitable trees to replace the avenues in the parks.”

The bacteria leads to lesions on the trunk or main branches developing, causing the bark to die. The oldest trees are 50 years old but some are younger.

The potential reasons for the increase in number of affected trees may be because of the recent spate of mild winters and wet springs which favours spread and infection by the previously found bacteria to cause bleeding cankers on horse chestnuts. The affected trees will be replaced over the next seven to nine years with different species.

Cutteslowe Park has 1,711 trees of which 119 are horse chestnuts. Nearly two thirds of these will have to be cut down.

Summertown city councillor Jean Fooks, a member of the Friends of Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park, said: “People are very concerned at the threat to the avenues of horse chestnut trees which are such a feature of the park.

“It is important that any actions taken will ensure that there will be avenues in future which enhance the park, rather than ad-hoc replacements of individual trees.”

Kit Villiers, chairman of the Friends group, said: “A meeting will be held in the park for Friends of Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park on Monday, where they will be shown the infected trees.

“We recognise that there is a disease and that something has to be done. It is a terrific shame because they look lovely.”