Ash tree disease leads to row over compensation

An ash sapling in Studley, Warwickshire
An ash sapling in Studley, Warwickshire Photo: David Jones/PA Wire/Press Association Images

One of the UK's biggest tree growers will seek damages from the government, claiming delays in its handling of ash dieback disease led to it losing thousands of trees.

Crowders Nurseries in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, destroyed 50,000 ash trees after it was hit by the disease, managing director Simon Ellis said.

He said it took the Government three months to tell the company what to do after finding trees at the nursery were infected in June.

The fungal disease is threatening to wipe out the majority of Britain's ash trees. It has already killed up to 90% of ash trees in some areas of Denmark.

ITV News' Chris Ship reports:

Speaking today, Mr Ellis said: "Fera (Food and Environment Research Agency) served a notice on us which forbid us from doing anything with our stock.

"We couldn't sell ash, we couldn't move it, we couldn't even destroy it or prune it.

"At that time we only had it on a few trees in the nursery and by the time the destruction order came in September, three months later, the disease had spread to a lot of trees on the nursery - really like wildfire."

The government has ruled out paying compensation for loss of diseased ash trees, gave the nursery six weeks to destroy all 50,000 ash trees when it served notice in September.

Mr Ellis said he expected the Government to compensate growers as warnings about the disease were ignored.

"We're looking to them, because they made the mistake in 2009. The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) warned them in 2009 that this disease was a new form of the disease, was killing trees in Denmark and we really ought to have put a ban in place to stop any further import of ash trees from Europe.

The HTA earlier secured a meeting with Lord de Mauley, Defra Minister, to discuss seeking compensation for any financial losses that the industry incurs, following the outbreak of Ash dieback disease.

The HTA will meet Lord de Mauley on Tuesday to discuss the current government import and movement ban on ash trees.