The HTA is advocating a ban on the import of sweet chestnut trees into Britain in a bid to control the spread of a fungal disease.
The disease, caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica has already affected two sites in the UK. So far, 180 trees have been destroyed on sites in Warwickshire and Essex, following the importation of infected trees from France in 2011.
With the potential increase in planting of sweet chestnut as an alternative to ash in woodlands, the HTA supports a ban on imports as this could present an unnecessary risk to UK woodland already under stress from chalara.
HTA director of business development Tim Briercliffe said: "UK growers take these issues very seriously as we evidenced when we called for a ban in ash imports in 2009 and called for a ban on Plane imports at the end of 2012."
He added: "The situation is different to Chalara in that the disease is controlled within Europe through plant passporting and the UK is a ‘protected zone’. However, despite these controls, the disease has been found in the UK in recent years. The disease does not appear as aggressive as Chalara, but in light of the fact that demand for sweet chestnut is likely to increase, we would support an import ban to help prevent the disease spreading further."