Ash disease probe spreads to Sunderland

Picture by Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian
Picture by Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian
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COUNCIL staff are inspecting Sunderland woodland, parks and plantations for signs of ash tree disease.

The highly contagious infection ash dieback can wipe out the affected tree and spread to others extremely quickly.

There are approximately 4,000 ash trees in the city.

Ford Estate, Grangetown and Washington have large numbers.

Wearside also has approximately 154 hectares of woodlands and plantations, with an estimated 50,000 ash trees.

Ash die-back disease is being treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures.

Councillor James Blackburn, cabinet member for city services, said: “The city council is acting on government advice.

“The council believes it is unlikely Sunderland trees have been affected at this early stage in the disease’s development.

“This is a precautionary measure. The council, as with other landowners, wants to make sure that there are no outbreaks on land that it oversees on behalf of residents.”

As well as woodlands, parks and street scene, staff are checking approximately 40 ash trees that have been planted in the last four years.

If any infection is found, the council has said it will follow government scientific advice as a matter of urgency.

Government advice is to restrict all new plantings to trees that have local provenance and to report all suspected sightings.

Any sightings of disease are sent to the Forest Research Tree Health Diagnostic Advisory Service, the Forestry Commission Plant Health Service and the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate.

An area of trees infected with dieback disease in East Durham is to be destroyed, as reported in the Echo on Saturday.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that the saplings will be burnt within the next two weeks.

Seaham is one of six newly-planted sites in the North East where the disease has been found, sparking concern it will take hold in the region.

In the first serious contagion risk case in the region, a mature ash just outside the Northumberland National Park was identified with the top-level contagious strain of the fungal virus.

A non-contagious ash dieback site was found near Newcastle Airport and cleared, along with one at Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham.

Advice for the public is being posted on www.sunderland.gov.uk and nationally on the Defra and Forestry Commission websites.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho