A CHESHIRE Wildlife Trust spokesman expressed her ‘relief’ that South Cheshire has so far avoided a fungal disease killing ash trees in neighbouring Shropshire.

Jacki Hulse, head of estates and land management for the charity, welcomed new Government proposals for dealing with Chalara Fraxinea – a serious disease causing rapid leaf and bark loss that has decimated ash tree populations across Europe and parts of Britain.

The Trust recently declared an ‘all clear’ survey of key nature reserves in Cheshire containing ash trees. A reported outbreak in Knutsford was not confirmed by the Forestry Commission.

However, UK cases of the disease have reached 300, with outbreaks reported in neighbouring Shropshire.

Jacki said: “First and foremost, we’re relieved that the Cheshire region so far appears to be disease free.

“However, the doubling of nationwide cases since the initial emergency ash dieback survey suggests that we’re by no means immune from the risk in the North West.

“That’s why it’s critical that the cure mustn’t be worse than the cause, and the government seems to be taking a science-led approach with ecology at its heart – a move that the Wildlife Trust welcomes.”

New Government plans include maintaining the current import ban on ash trees, a targeted management strategy for dealing with infected trees by spring next year, and advice on how to tackle potentially infected leaf litter.

Work will also step up across the UK and Europe to expedite research into a cure.

Jacki said: “The long-term objective must be to promote genetic resistance to this disease so that ash woodlands can naturally regenerate over time.”

The public are asked to report signs of ash dieback to the Forestry Commission.

Visit www.forestry.gov.uk for details.