The HTA has responded with mixed reactions to Defra’s Chalara Management Plan published yesterday (26 March 2013).
The HTA supports the proportionate approach that has been developed to slow the rate of spread of the disease across the country. The Plan focuses action on the more susceptible recently-planted woodland trees (i.e. trees planted within the approximately the last five years) rather than mature, more economically and environmentally valuable trees. For sites where planting of ash has been funded under the Rural Development Programme for England, grant aid will be provided to landowners to remove and dispose of recently-planted infected trees in high priority areas (i.e. those with the highest hazard value but lowest risk of windborne infection). Grant funding will also be made available throughout England to support the re-planting of sites of recently-planted infected ash trees with alternative species. And Defra will also report in April 2013 on whether a similar approach can be adopted for ash trees planted under the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme.
Gary Scroby, HTA Policy Manager comments, “The plan for the forestry and woodlands sector is sensible and measured. The removal and re-planting support for recently-planted trees, together with the research proposals to better understand the genetics of the disease and the efforts to identify and develop any potential resistance within the UK ash population, will provide the country with important time to adapt to the disease as well as help landowners and forestry nurseries through this difficult period.”
He adds, “However, as the Plan itself admits, it does not yet address the problem with the thousands of ash trees in hedgerows, rail embankments, parks gardens and streets, nor the trees destined for such locations which are now sat worthless in amenity nurseries. There is a commitment to work with this sector over the coming few months to minimise the impact of Chalara, but we have been in talks with Defra since the turn of the year and so far all our suggestions for support have not found favour. Despite growers’ warnings in 2009 of the dangers of the disease, the government has refused to compensate growers and there is no equivalent to RDPE funding that can help provide economic and environmental resilience in this sector. Growers have endured significant losses and some face legal action from their customers. We therefore welcome Defra’s commitment to focus on the amenity half of the problem with eager anticipation.”
The Chalara Management Plan can be viewed on Defra’s website