Tree Diseases – CPRE letter in The Times

About six months ago one of CPRE’s Vice Presidents, Caroline Cranbrook (Lady Cranbrook) contacted me to urge CPRE to do something about tree diseases, in particular acute oak decline. I looked into the issue and did, er, not very much. The issue was far from the headlines, but it was clearly not being ignored by the Government and relevant NGOs. Although CPRE has many members who know a good deal about trees and woodland, it is not an area we have worked in closely for many years, and it seemed unlikely to me that we would be able to add much to the debate.

That was a mistake. The issue was not being ignored, but nor was it being tackled with much vigour. It might have been useful for a body like CPRE to try to raise the alarm.

The Government now appears to be doing everything possible to tackle ash dieback. But what about other potential threats to Britain’s trees, particularly England’s national tree, the oak? Today CPRE’s President and five of our Vice Presidents have a letter in the Times raising concern about tree diseases in general.

The letter also raises the question of where the money to fight the threat will come from. Defra and its agencies have suffered much deeper cuts than other parts of government. There is no point in spending money on tree health if it opens the door to some other environmental or animal health disaster.

The letter is here.


As the president and vice presidents of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, we welcome government action to determine the extent of ash dieback disease and to contain its spread.

But while positive steps are now being taken to control this disease, we believe this disaster for nature and our landscapes should be a wake-up call for the Government to show a much stronger commitment to tackling tree diseases in general. Even as attention focuses on ash dieback, other potentially disastrous threats to our native tree stock are proliferating in the countryside. A range of other pests and diseases is already present in Britain. These include acute oak decline, which is killing mature trees; phytophthora, which affects a range of trees such as larch, beech and oak; and bleeding canker, which kills many horse chestnuts.

We urge the Government to consider drawing on the Contingencies Fund to tackle these threats rather than raiding other already depleted Defra budgets for nature conservation and access.

We hope the Government has learnt the lessons of the ash dieback debacle. Vigilance and decisive action will be required in future if we are to preserve our native trees and the landscape we know and love.

Sir Andrew Motion (President), Bill Bryson, Caroline Cranbrook, Jonathan Dimbleby, Tom Flood, Ben Goldsmith (Vice-Presidents) Campaign to Protect Rural England

2 Responses to “Tree Diseases – CPRE letter in The Times”

  1. 1 chrisconder November 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    We’ve known about Ash disease in Europe for two years, yet we still allowed imports. Bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted isn’t it? surely the job of Defra is to protect us from these things, not spend masses of public money to try to clean up the mess later? And the CPRE should keep on at Defra when this sort of thing is common knowledge to landspeople but ignored by those who rule?

  1. 1 “WAKE UP CALL” – Tree Diseases: CPRE letter in The Times [24Nov12] « Ash Tree Dieback …… Trackback on November 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

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