07 March 2017

The Forestry Commission have been sending out information to alert all about an outbreak of sweet chestnut blight in the South West and to notify everyone of four 5km zones that are subject to movement restrictions.

Sweet chestnut blight is caused by a fungus called Cryphonectria parasitica, which gets into the trees through wounds or graft sites. Although oak trees suffer very little damage if they are infected by the fungus, they can spread it, so restrictions on movements of oak material are also required as a precaution.

Movement Restrictions

UK plant health authorities have introduced a prohibition on the movement of sweet chestnut and oak material within four specific zones in Devon and Dorset. A prohibition on two zones in Devon came into force on Friday 24 February 2017. Two more will come into force on Thursday 9 March 2017, one in Devon and one in Dorset. The exact boundaries of all of these zones are shown in notices and maps on the Forestry Commission and Gov.uk websites (please scroll to the end of each notice for the relevant map). The zones will remain in place until further notice and will be kept under review.

This prohibition is implemented by Plant Health (Sweet Chestnut Blight) (England) Order 178/2017. It makes it illegal to move sweet chestnut material including plants, logs, branches, foliage and firewood out of, or within, zones covering a 5 kilometre (3.2 mile) radius of the affected sites where sweet chestnut blight has been found. The same restrictions apply to oak within 1 kilometre (0.62 mile) of the same sites. Exceptions to this movement prohibition include oak or sweet chestnut material entering and exiting the zones without stopping. For example, the delivery of plants, logs or firewood which start and end their journeys outside the zones is permitted.

Exceptions may also be granted in certain circumstances by the Forestry Commission (southwest.fce@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or telephone 0300 067 4960), in the case of woodland sites, or by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate, for horticultural requests (01904 405138 or by emailing planthealth.info@apha.gsi.gov.uk).

The Forestry Commission and APHA are working closely together to carry out tracing activity and inspecting sweet chestnut trees at other sites which may lead to more zones being established. Further advice will follow from the Forestry Commission should this be necessary.

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