THE Yorkshire Arboretum has raised funds to build the UK’s first purpose-built facility to raise awareness about potential threats to our trees posed by an increasing number of pests and diseases.

Funding for the project has come from the Peter Sowerby Foundation, the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, and the Government’s Local Growth Fund, secured by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding (YNYER) LEP.

Following successful pilot courses held last year, the centre will offer training on a commercial basis, mixing classroom, lab and outdoor learning settings, as well as a public outreach programme.

Yorkshire Arboretum director Dr John Grimshaw said: “Our trees are threatened by an unprecedented array of pests and pathogens. Protecting our trees has never been more important – everyone is a stakeholder in tree health, from private householders with a back garden tree to the Highways Agency and councils. All need to know how to maintain healthy trees, or identify and manage those affected by pests and disease. The government has identified a significant skills shortage in the field, and this lack of understanding around biosecurity has contributed to the current crisis. The Tree Health Centre is of vital importance in the promotion of healthy trees for a healthy future.”

Beverley-based SALT Architects were commissioned to design the building which will be a single-storey structure adjacent to the arboretum’s existing visitor centre.

Yorkshire Arboretum chief operating officer Mathew Harrison said: “The centre is the realisation of our core strategy and values. It is a chance for us to create strong links with tree health experts and raise awareness of the critical issues of tree health with our visitors and the wider public.”

Sir William Worsley, Britain’s national Tree Champion, said “I regard tree health as a critical issue to be addressed, and believe that the Tree Health Centre will be a major force in raising public awareness and knowledge of this vital subject.”