Proposal to manage ash disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus

Closed 6 Feb 2018

Opened 12 Dec 2017

Feedback Updated 19 Apr 2018

We Asked

We asked your views on proposed changes to the management of Ash Dieback, a disease of Ash trees.  The question asked was;

The Department intends to modify it's approach to the management of Ash Dieback by discontinuing the use of Statutory Plant Health Notices in favour of a voluntary approach. Do you agree?

You Said

A total of 37 responses were received to the consultation; 23 of these were from representatives of organisations and 14 were from individuals.  

The majority of respondents supported the proposal, some concerns were raised around moving from a statutory to a voluntary approach, training in identification of the disease,  use of technology and the need for research- particularly on resilience.

We Did

We recognise that a wide range of views have been put forward and we wish to reassure all consultees that we have carefully considered the responses and will make changes to the legislation as appropriate. 

Results Updated 1 May 2018

Concerns were expressed on the relaxing of legislation especially the removal of Stop Notices. 


Legislative controls will be maintained and strengthened, new legislation will be introduced on plants for planting and wood and bark imports.  This will require pre-notification of high risk plants for planting  and wood and bark imports.

Concerns were expressed on abandoning current policies on ash tree protection.


While the Ash Dieback policy is being amended to a voluntary approach, the Department remains committed to ensuring tree and plant health through a range of other measures.  The recent development of the NI Plant Health Risk Register provides detailed information on current risk to tree and plant health and includes guidance on identification and actions to minimise spread of the disease.  The TreeCheck app is a means of the general public submitting images of suspected pests and diseases for identification and advice.

Concerns were expressed over the loss of a significant number of trees especially hedgerow trees.


Not all Ash trees will become diseased or die however this remains an unknown.  The Department have commissioned research to identify resilience and this is ongoing.  Alternative species for planting are being considered which should improve the diversity of our trees.

Concerns were expressed on the need to deliver training for councils and other stakeholders on their responsibilities related to tree safety.


DAERA Forest Service have provided training to councils and other stakeholders on tree safety and additional  training is planned.

Concerns were expressed that it is no longer a legal requirement to report Ash Dieback.


While the statutory requirement to report Ash Dieback has been removed, the new approach continues to encourage notification to the Department when a disease is suspected.  The TreeCheck app will enable this support.  The Department will continue surveillance for the disease and will update the N Ireland maps on the DAERA webiste

Concerns were expressed on deviating from the agreed All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy (2013).


The Department remains committed to the shared objective of maintaining and improving the island's plant health status through implementing national measures in order to ensure a consistent management approach.  Therefore the All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy (2013) is being revised in line with DAFM and DAERA policy approaches and will shortly be published on the DAERA website.

Concerns were expressed on future support for restitution of infected woodlands and supporting advice on planting options.


A revised forest protection scheme is being developed which will be launched in the near future.  Guidance on tree management and planting options will also be published.  



Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is an important native tree species. It is common in hedgerows and in woodlands and often appears by natural seeding, but not to the extent that it can be used reliably to establish new native woodlands. These woodlands often use a mixture of tree species including ash that have been specially grown in commercial nurseries. Most of these plants are imported.

Ash Dieback, a disease of ash trees, is attributed to a fungal pathogen called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, (previously Chalara fraxinea).  The disease was discovered for the first time in Poland in 1992 but the pathogen was not properly described by scientists until 2006. This made diagnosis difficult.

The disease was first detected here in 2012 on imported ash plants in newly planted  woodlands. We have been monitoring the presence of the disease since then, and are now finding the disease at widely dispersed locations in Northern Ireland where it is present on native ash both in the hedgerows and in older  trees. The same situation exists in the Republic of Ireland. 

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Our view is that the disease will continue to spread through the native ash population, just as it has done in GB and continental Europe.  Over time increasing numbers of native trees will display crown dieback symptoms, but some individual trees may survive because they have inherited resistance to the disease or the growing conditions will inhibit infection. 

Previously, Ministers agreed that DAERA Forest Service and the Irish Government’s Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) should produce the All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy, and this was launched in July 2013. Our joint aims were to contain and minimise the spread of the disease, leading to eradication.  Since 2012 the Forest Service has spent over £0.5 million finding and destroying infected plants, but the disease is still spreading. The evidence strongly suggests that containment and eradication are no longer practicable.

Why We Are Consulting

Early detection and action to destroy infected plants may have slowed the spread of the disease.  Nevertheless, the evidence now points to the fact that the disease is still spreading. Consequently, we do not believe that we can justify continuing that approach.

Instead, we are now consulting about less intrusive and  more reasonable  cost methods of control that will help us live with the disease.  We will continue to support landowners and those with responsibility for ash trees by offering guidance, and we will consider the case for limited financial support for restitution of infected woodlands.

We believe that continuing collaborative working with stakeholders to manage the disease is important. We suggest that the emphasis on finding and reporting disease on a statutory basis should change to a voluntary one, and be expanded to include training volunteers to observe the spread of disease and gather evidence about the natural resistance of native trees to the disease.

In common with GB and the Republic of Ireland, to reduce the risk of further infection we will retain the legislation controlling the importation of potentially infected ash plants for planting. We will review the measures on the importation of ash wood.

You are one of a wide range of stakeholders engaging in this consultation.  This includes those with an interest in the economic and environmental benefits of ash in our landscape and plantations. You are invited to consider the evidence provided and give your views on this matter.








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