Monday, 29 October 2012

Ash Tree's - The local impact of Ash disease?

The government is presiding over another shambles - #ashambles

I have written to Hyndburn and Rossendale borough council's for an update on the impact the disease in Hyndburn and Rossendale and what information they had received from DEFRA officials.

I have specifically asked;

What assessment has been made of the impact of Ash disease locally?

How many Ash trees are there locally?

Are there particular areas of Ash tree concentrations and if so where?

How many trees have been inspected?

Have any trees been discovered with Ash disease and what remedial work has the Council done?

What contingencies does the council have if there is a 70% reduction in Ash trees?

Who is liable for remedial work for infected Ash trees on private land?

Will there be any notification of works on Ash trees in public spaces, parks, public land?

What advice has been received from

Is the Council tracking recent imports from infected countries?

Chalara dieback of ash (Chalara fraxinea)

Key points

• Defra launched a consultation on whether to ban the import of ash trees on 31st August following concerns about the spread of chalara fraxinea in the UK. The consultation closed on 26 October.

• The Government today (Monday) announced a ban on ash imports. Movement restrictions will also be imposed, so that trees from infected areas will not be able to be moved to other locations in the UK.

• Ash dieback disease causes leaf loss and has already killed trees in England, Scotland and other parts of mainline Europe.

• In February 2012, a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands was discovered in Buckinghamshire.

• On 24th October the Woodland Trust confirmed that the disease had been found at one of its sites in Suffolk. The Forestry Commission has also found the disease in Norfolk.

• Over 50,000 trees have already been burnt since the disease was found in the UK in February 2012

• Denmark has lost 90% of its ash trees due to the disease. If the same happens in the UK it could devastate tree cover, wildlife and the wood services industries.


• Ash trees suffering with C. fraxinea infection have been found widely across Europe since trees now believed to have been infected with this newly identified pathogen were reported dying in large numbers in Poland in 1992.

• In February 2012 it was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire. Since then it has been found in a number of locations and situations in England and Scotland, including a car park in Leicester; a Forestry Commission Scotland woodland at Knockmountain, near Kilmacolm, west of Glasgow; a college campus in South Yorkshire; and a property in County Durham. All these sites had received stocks of young ash plants from nurseries within the past five years. Further cases have also been confirmed in the nursery trade.

• In October 2012, Food and Environmental Research Agency (FERA) scientists confirmed a small number of cases in East Anglia in ash trees which do not appear to have any association with recently supplied nursery stock.

• Defra has established a Tree Taskforce, under Professor Ian Boyd Defra chief scientific officer, with officials from the Forestry Commission, FERA and the department to manage the disease.

Did the Government's cuts undermine the Forestry Commission?

• The Forestry Commission was cut by 25% in the Spending Review 2010.

• They shut 7 regional offices and cut 276 staff jobs.

• The staff consultation document on redundancies (dated February 2011) identified high-level risks from cutting jobs and funding to deal with tree diseases.

High-level risks, p.24
"There is no capacity to deal with costs of disease or other calamity. (e.g. Phytophthora is currently an unfunded pressure for 2011/12.) Mitigation: ensure full awareness of this loss of capacity."

Forest Research
• The Forestry Commission Trade Unions warned the Government about the loss of expertise and capacity in forest research.

• In written evidence to the Science & Technology Select Committee, 9 June 2011, they said that the grant for to Forestry Research from the Forestry Commission had been cut from £10 million to just over £7 million a year in the CSR.
"At current rates of inflation this equates to at least a 40% reduction in real terms in the Government's spending on research in the forestry sector over the period to 2015."
Forestry Commission Trade Unions (FCTU), written evidence to the Science & Technology Select Committee, 9 June 2011

"20. Forest research in Great Britain is already funded at a minimal level, and will be drastically under-funded as the cuts proceed. We believe that its budget should not be cut at all and that efficiencies within DEFRA should be sought before cutting back on science."
Forestry Commission Trade Unions (FCTU), written evidence to the Science & Technology Select Committee, 9 June 2011

What others say

"The question is, why weren't we told it was there?"
Harry Cotterell, President, Country & Business Landowners Association, FT, Monday 29 October

"Ecologically it is going to change the countryside very significantly. Parallels have been made with Dutch elm disease of the 1970s. This is not good news for the countryside."
Professor Ian Boyd, Defra chief scientific officer, BBC World this Weekend, 28 October 2012

Defra Oral Questions, 25 October 2012:

Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): The Secretary of State should have banned the import of ash seedlings the minute disease was found in nurseries in this country. He will not be forgiven for any delay by the people of this country, who so value the ash trees. Will he ensure that the Forestry Commission has all the resources it needs to be able to confront this terrible threat?

Mr Paterson: I think the right hon. Lady is being pretty unfair. The minute we heard about this, we launched a consultation. That will report tomorrow. On the basis of evidence—[Interruption.] All the right hon. Lady's colleagues are shouting at me about evidence and science-based information, and from tomorrow evening I will look at the evidence, and if it is sensible to ban imports, I will take that decision and make restrictions on Monday.

Key questions for the Government

The Secretary of State told the House last Thursday: "As soon as we heard about this, we started a consultation." Why did ministers not take action in February when the first case was found in a nursery?

Did Ministers receive any advice from officials, in the spring or summer, to take immediate action to stop the trade in ash imports?
What advice is he giving to tree owners – perhaps with infected trees in their gardens – to deal with the disease?

How will he encourage them to come forward if they're concerned that they might be blamed for importing the disease into the UK?

At what point did Ministers ask for a risk assessment to be undertaken?
On what precise date did any minister from his department first receive an official briefing on the presence of ash dieback in the UK?

On what date were ministers and officials in the devolved administrations informed of the disease?

What resources will be allocated for monitoring and tackling this disease, and how will this impact on the wider work of the department and Forestry Commission?

What role will the Forestry Commission have in managing this disease, particularly given their recent 25% budget cut and loss of staff?

What assessment has he made about the preparedness of his Department and agencies to deal with this disease given how badly Defra fared in the Budget settlement?

There has been no reporting of any scientific evidence that ash dieback has been transmitted across the sea by air, yet this has been stated by the Secretary of State as a potential source of infection. Where is the scientific evidence that the infection has been blown to the UK?

If there is none, why did he say it? If there is, will he publish it?

How will he involve councils, parish councils and local communities to help map the spread of the disease and act as our eyes and ears locally?

Does he regret not making the disease public earlier so that the local communities could have played their part in helping to tackle this deadly disease?

Will they place in the Library the full chronology of meetings and briefings with officials and ministers leading up to this announcement today, together with any risk assessments and briefings?

If significant numbers of trees need to be felled it could have a serious impact on the wood services industry and wood prices in the future. Can the felled wood be stored safely for future use if it is dried out and the fungal infection destroyed?

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