THE URGENT survey of ash trees carried out over the weekend has found cases of ash dieback disease in woodland in Kent and Essex.
Plant health experts are also carrying out an urgent check of 220 “prioritised sites” which have saplings from nurseries where the disease has already been found. They are among 1,000 sites that have already been surveyed.
A further 2,500 blocks of land, each 10 kilometres square, where there are mature ash trees are also being checked as a priority.
Defra said confirmation of the disease in Kent and Essex does not mean that ash dieback has spread since the first case in woodland was detected in East Anglia.
It is believed that the disease in East Anglia may have been present for a number of years, and is likely to have been transmitted by wind from mainland Europe. It is likely the same thing happened in Kent and Essex.
Ash dieback has been confirmed in 14 nurseries, 36 planting sites and 32 other locations.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “We’re doing everything we can to identify where the disease is so that we can focus our efforts on those areas.
“Once we had the scientific advice that the disease in mature trees had probably arrived here by wind from Europe, it was always likely that we’d find it in coastal areas.
“Sadly that’s the case with the confirmation today of the disease in Kent and Essex. I would expect even more cases to be confirmed as our urgent survey of ash trees continues.”
He said a major summit on tree and plant health will be held later this week, involving scientists, charities, landowners and the horticultural industry.
Around 5% of the UK’s woodland is made up of ash, which is native to the Britain. Ash dieback – or Chalara – has affected a high proportion of ash trees in northern Europe. It was confirmed in UK nursery stock in March.