THE first case of ash dieback disease has been found in Hampshire.
The disease has been discovered at the Alice Holt Forest in the north-east od the county more than two years after it was first found in the UK.
Hampshire had been one of the last counties in England to be free of the disease.
Conservationists are worried it could devastate the ash population in the same way Dutch Elm Disease wiped out elm trees in the 1970s.
A Forestry Commission spokesman said the case was believed to have been long-established rather than a new tree being planted.
There is a forestry research station at Alice Holt Forest. “It is no surprise the first instance would turn up in a place like Alice Holt because it has a lot visits by foresters and researchers,” he said.
He said infected trees would only be cut down if there was a public safety issue.
Ash trees make up 1.4 per cent of Alice Holt Forest so the immediate impact is not expected to be great.
A fungus called Chalara fraxinea causes it.
Symptoms are leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees.
It is usually fatal .
The disease has killed between 60 and 90 per cent of Denmark’s ash trees.
It affects common or European ash trees, including its ‘Pendula’ ornamental variety and narrow-leaved ash.
It spreads by wind for up to ten miles, or movement of diseased trees.
The first confirmed UK case was in February 2012.
There are 662 confirmed cases in the UK (until July 14 2014), 335 of those in recently planted sites.