Tree grower sues government over ash dieback delays

Nov 5, 2012

Nursery owner forced to destroy his trees says government was warned in 2009 about threat to ash

Callum Black

A NURSERY owner is suing the government for failing to take notice of early warnings about ash dieback. 

Chalara fraxinea, a fungal disease that has killed 90 per cent of ash trees in Denmark, has now been found in 52 locations across Britain. A biologist warned yesterday that "almost all" ash trees in the UK would eventually die. 

Simon Ellis of Crowders nursery in Lincolnshire told the BBC's Today programme he has no choice but to sue the government for £200,000 because new restrictions have cut off his income stream at the most profitable time of year for his line of business. He has also been forced to destroy 50,000 trees.

Ellis said the Horticultural Trades Association wrote to ministers in 2009 warning them to close UK borders to ash trees because of a new strain of the ash dieback disease.

"They should have taken it seriously at the time. They chose not to and now we have this really dramatic situation and unfortunately, by the sound of it, the ash tree disease has spread throughout the UK," Ellis said.

"Effectively our income stream starts now, this is the season, this is our harvest time so to cut off our income stream - what other course of action can we take?"

Martin Ward, the UK's chief plant health officer with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said ash dieback is not spreading but accepted that "we're probably not going eradicate it".

"We have stopped the movement of plants and the sporulation on the leaf litter, which can lead to aerial spread, doesn't happen until the summer," he said.

"The increasing number of cases we are recording at the moment is the result of greater information, more knowledge of the distribution of the disease."

A full survey of ash dieback should be published by Wednesday and will act as a base line on which to judge the future spread of the fungus.

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