Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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£25m to protect precious woodland and landscapes from disease

£25m to protect precious woodland and landscapes from disease

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref: 41/09) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 3 March 2009

The fight against a deadly plant disease plaguing historic gardens, woodland and heathlands across England and Wales received a significant boost today as Environment Minister Jane Kennedy announced £25 million to help eradicate the disease.

The new funding will support a five-year programme to manage and contain the risks of two plant diseases Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae from spreading further, following a scientific review and stakeholder consultation.

Announcing the funding at the National Trust site at Nymans Gardens in Sussex today, Ms Kennedy said:

"These lethal diseases are having a detrimental effect in pristine locations, which in turn could have a detrimental effect on our local tourism industry, and our own lifestyles.

"Defra, the Forestry Commission and local authorities are currently tackling outbreaks across England and Wales including the New Forest, the south west of England, and Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. These are significant tourist hot spots that could face a drop in visitor numbers if we don't act now.

"Many of us escape the hustle and bustle of the city for the fresh air in our beautiful countryside.

"But if this disease spreads, it could mean parts of the countryside being cordoned off, and more limited public access - in addition to further loss of our precious woodland.

"That's why we've announced this significant funding to help combat these diseases and safeguard our woodlands for the future."

The new programme is a result of an external scientific peer review and a public consultation which concluded that more should be done to try to manage the impact of the disease.

Notes to editors

1. Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae are serious diseases of trees and shrubs, posing a threat to native woodlands and heathland species and were first detected in the UK seven years ago.

2. Since then an interdepartmental programme board has been overseeing emergency action to contain and eradicate the diseases and to coordinate research to inform decisions on future management.

3. The programme will have three main work streams:

* disease management;

* education and awareness; and

* research and development.

4. Defra will be working with delivery bodies and key stakeholders to:

* build on the good work already done by stakeholder groups on codes of practice and bio security procedures;

* plan the programme activities;

* ensure a coordinated approach is taken; and

* identify any synergies with existing work and opportunities to enhance the programme.

5. The programme activity will be reviewed after three years to gauge success and plan future activity.

6. The work will be managed by a new agency, FERA - the Food and Environment Research Agency. The new executive agency will bring together the expertise of the Central Science Laboratory, the Decontamination Service and Defra's plant health and seeds directorate.

7. For more information on Phytophthora ramorum go to http://www.defra.gov.uk/planth/pramorum.htm

8. For more information on Phytophthora kernoviae go to http://www.defra.gov.uk/planth/pkernovii.htm

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