AN area of trees infected with dieback disease in East Durham is to be destroyed.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that saplings at the spot will be burnt within the next two weeks. Defra would not reveal the location.
Seaham is one of six newly-planted sites in the North East where the disease has been found, sparking growing concern it will take hold in the region.
A mature ash tree near Wooler, just outside the Northumberland National Park, was identified with the top-level contagious strain of the fungal virus.
It is the first serious contagion risk case in the region and security checks have been carried out within a six-mile radius.
A non-contagious ash dieback site was found near Newcastle Airport and cleared along with one at Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham.
The disease, which causes leaf loss, can kill affected trees.
It was first found in the UK in February and trees imported from a nursery in the Netherlands to Buckinghamshire. It is believed the disease is also spread by the wind.
A Tree Health Summit was held on Wednesday where the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, vowed to take more action to stop the outbreak.
The Country Land and Business Association president, Harry Cotterell said: “The CLA has welcomed the Secretary of State’s commitment to change priorities within Defra to help control the spread of ash tree disease.
“We are now asking for a culture change within Defra and the Forestry Commission so foresters are recognised as the best early detectors of tree pests and diseases.”
CLA North Policy and Public Affairs Director, Douglas Chalmers added: “Hands-on foresters in the private sector have a great deal of expertise. They know exactly where to find specific types of trees and they know what they should look like in a healthy state.
“Foresters and landowners throughout the North are now in a race against time to check trees that have already dropped most of their leaves, making disease identification much harder.”