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Farmers and ash tree die back disease

17 December 2012

Farmers and landowners should consider the potential impact of ash tree die back disease on their property.

This is particularly so where ash trees provide security and amenity value, windbreaks, landscape character or help to enhance the income and capital value of the property. One possible way to mitigate the spread of the disease could be to develop planting schemes of alternative species.

From a legal point of view it is important to consider the condition of ash trees alongside public highways and rights of way, now and in the future. Landowners would be liable if diseased trees were to cause injury and damage to members of the public or their property.

Cases of ash tree die back disease have been reported throughout the UK, the latest being at six Forestry Commission sites in Wales. The closest reported cases to Gloucestershire are across the border in Worcestershire.

The disease, caused by a fungus called chalara fraxinea, is thought to have been imported into the UK from Europe on saplings, although outbreaks in the South East suggest that windborne arrival could also be a factor.

In Sweden and Denmark it is estimated that between 60 and 90% of ash trees have been affected. If the same percentage spread throughout the UK, the countryside could be significantly altered akin to the devastation that resulted after the spread of Dutch elm disease in the 1960s and 1970s.

To discuss this further please contact our agriculture and estates department.

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Adam Hale BA (Hons), TEP, FALA
Senior associate, solicitor
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Adam Hale
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