Oak Processionary Moth Outbreak in Pangbourne

The issue:

The Oak Processionary Moth (“OPM”) was first found in London in 2006. Despite considerable attempts to control it, the OPM spread in London. In late 2010, an outbreak of the OPM was found in Pangbourne. The OPM, which can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems if people come into contact with OPM caterpillars, was discovered in and around the village by the Forestry Commission. The cost of treating infected trees is significant and as such there is a considerable desire to control the outbreak and eventually eradicate the OPM from Pangbourne altogether.

Achievements to date:

  • Alok was initially informed of the outbreak by Pangbourne Councillor Pamela Bale in June 2011 and together they initiated a meeting with West Berkshire Council, The Forestry Commission, and Agriculture and Food Minister Jim Paice to establish how best to tackle the issue.
  • The outbreak was consequently found to have spread over a kilometre since its discovery and as a result representatives from the offices of Henley MP John Howell and Newbury MP Richard Benyon were also invited to attend as trees in their constituencies might also be at risk.
  • The meeting discussed the plans for treatment of infected trees, which then took place in the spring of 2012, and the Forestry Commission also agreed to continue to survey the area of 1 kilometre from the importation site.
  • The potential financial impact on property owners was also discussed at the meeting and West Berkshire Council officers have since successfully negotiated a bulk contract for treatment of the infected trees, and this will result in a considerably reduced cost to residents.

Next steps:

  • Alok and Councillor Pamela Bale, along with the other agencies involved, will monitor the situation as the treatment of infected trees is undertaken and completed to ensure the OPM outbreak is tackled.

Alok says:

“It was incredibly helpful to get Jim Paice’s support for the work to be done by the Forestry Commission in this critical year. The OPM is not only bad news for oak trees but can also present a potential health risk for humans and so it is vital that this outbreak is contained and eradicated before it spreads and does any more damage.”