Ash tree dieback: Rayne nursery owner criticises government

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Media captionPaul King said that burning the healthy trees had been a "depressing experience"

An Essex tree nursery owner who burned 100 ash trees as a precaution against a fungal disease says government action is "too little, too late".

Paul King, owner of King and Co tree nursery at Rayne near Braintree, destroyed the trees as he did not want to take any chances over ash dieback.

The loss of the trees was going to cost the business £10,000, he said.

On Monday, government officials confirmed that the disease was present in woodlands in Kent and Essex.

In the last six weeks, 100,000 ash trees have been destroyed and experts say it may be too late to stop the spread of the fungus.

Scientists say the infection in native trees has been caused by a fungus Chalara fraxinea, which is believed to have been carried on the wind from mainland Europe.

A plant health order banning imports and the movement of ash trees came into force on 29 October.

Mr King, whose business has been going for 35 years, said that burning the healthy trees had been a depressing experience.

"It's quite galling for us to have to do all this because basically yet again the government has missed the boat on a serious outbreak of tree disease," he said.

"Bio-security in the UK is just an absolute joke.

"Successive governments including this one are just not prepared to spend funds on stopping lorries at the border.

"Anything could be coming in and until we start employing sufficient resources to tackle this issue on our borders, then it'll just carry on."

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The confirmation of chalara in Kent and Essex does not mean the disease 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 the mainland Europe."

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to chair a summit on ash dieback on Wednesday.

The ash tree is a native British species of tree, providing around five percent of all woodland cover.

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