Since sweet chestnut blight was first confirmed in Devon in 2016, there have been cases at eight sites in Devon, a site in Dorset, eight sites in East London, a site in Berkshire, three sites in Derbyshire, and one site in Leicestershire. In all cases action was taken to limit spread of the disease from sites and determine its local distribution.
Restrictions on the movement of sweet chestnut and oak materials were introduced in February 2017 in six zones around affected sites. The ban was then extended to other areas in Devon and Dorset in May 2017. The prohibition made it illegal to move sweet chestnut material including plants, logs, branches, foliage and firewood out of, or inside, zones within 2 kilometre (1.2 mile) radius of affected sites in Devon and Dorset, where sweet chestnut blight had been found. The same restrictions applied to oak within 1 kilometre (0.62 mile) of the affected sites. These restrictions will no longer apply from Tuesday 27th March 2018, although movement restrictions at affected sites where infected trees were found will continue at a site-specific level.
The move comes after surveillance work by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Forestry Commission (FC) to assess the level of spread. In the majority of sites in south-west England we have found no evidence of spread to the wider environment. There is one site in the South West where we have found localised evidence of spread within the affected woodland, and the infected trees are still in the process of being removed. Based on the current policy approach, movement restrictions at affected sites where infected trees were found will continue at a site specific level.
Sweet Chestnut Blight is considered a major threat to our sweet chestnut trees; the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica causes foliage to wilt and die and cankers to develop on the tree surface, which may eventually kill the tree. Chestnut blight does not pose any risk to people, pets or livestock and is only known to seriously affect Chestnut (Castanea) species.
Full information about the disease, including pictorial guides to the symptoms, is available on the Forestry Commission website at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/chestnutblight. We are appealing to sweet chestnut owners and managers to keep alert for the disease and report any suspicious symptoms to the Forestry Commission using Tree Alert http://www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert.
Kate Tobin, Local Partnership Advisor, Forestry Commission, Forest Services South West England firstname.lastname@example.org 0300 067 5870 (direct)