More than 20,000 trees may have to be destroyed at Northern Ireland’s only Diamond Jubilee Wood.

They are ash trees planted only last year near Whitehead to mark the Queen’s Jubilee.

  • All consignments of plane trees, sweet chestnut, oak and ash are now being checked by plant health inspectors in a bid to stop disease
  • imports must be accompanied by paperwork indicating the species of trees in transit, their origin and destination
  • The clampdown come as ash dieback continues to spread

The UK’s control plan is based on four measures – “reduce, develop, encourage and adapt”, said Prof Ian Boyd, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). He said the aim was to reduce the spread of Chalara, develop new control measures and resistant varieties, encourage the public and industry to help out and adapt the nation’s forests to the inevitable changes.

However, Paterson said the current policy of tracing and destroying young infected trees – which has seen more than 100,000 trees removed – was “unlikely to be sustainable in the longer term and there may be benefits from a more targeted approach.” Boyd said control measures had to be “proportional” to ensure trade could continue and deliver “economic uplift” but said what a more targeted approach might be was yet to be determined.


While the Government has a no-compensation policy for those affected, he has assured land owners that it will not stop direct payments to farmers affected by control measures. Reforestation of removed trees will be grant-aided.

Over the next week, Natural England will be contacting Environmental Stewardship customers and owners of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with advice on how they can help combat ash dieback disease (Chalara fraxinea).  Natural England is also providing important advice on how to protect agri-environment payments should the disease be found in young trees planted as part of an Environmental Stewardship scheme.

A key part of the advice to Environmental Stewardship agreement holders is that in view of the exceptional circumstances of ash dieback disease and the possible requirement to remove ash saplings that have been planted or managed under an ES scheme, Natural England will endeavour to protect their Environmental Stewardship payments under the scheme’s force majeure terms.  (Under standard ES scheme rules, the removal of trees forming part of an ES agreement would normally result in the terms of the agreement not being met, which can result in the recovery of grant payments).

The Horticultural Trades Association admitted that many saplings are labelled as British because customers like “local provenance”.

But although the seed may be from the local area, the trees are increasingly grown abroad because it is cheaper.

The trend has been blamed for fuelling the movement of trees around Europe, that is in turn spreading a deadly new disease.

The destruction of ash saplings found to be contaminated with the fungus responsible for ash dieback disease has been “soul-destroying”, the custodian of a West Yorkshire tree plantation has admitted.

About 1,700 ash tree saplings have been burned at Farnley Tyas, near Huddersfield, in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, and will cost thousands of pounds to replace.

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department requires trees found to be infected with ash dieback disease to be incinerated commercially or whether they can be used for domestic fuel.

David Heath (Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat)

Until further notice movement of all ash material off an infected site under a Statutory Plant Heath Notice is prohibited. We will review the measures for controlling movement of wood from infected trees once we have fully assessed the national disease situation. However, at the present time, the wood may only be used as fuel if it remains on the site covered by the Plant Health Notice.