Footpaths have been closed in a large area of Surrey following the confirmation of a new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Control zones extending three kilometres have been set up around the sprawling Milton Park Farm, near Egham. Pastureland used by animals is spread around various sites, so the zones cover a large area from Staines in the North to the A3 south of Woking. Further surveillance zones have been imposed with a 10km radius around the centres of the outbreak.
These zones take in Windsor, Heathrow airport and Guildford and even strike deep into Greater London as far as Twickenham. The M25 and M3 motorways cut right through the middle of the control zones.
The confirmation of the latest outbreak is a severe blow to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which only last week declared Surrey free of the virus after the initial cases traced to laboratories at Pirbright.
Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds said: “This is a developing situation. Our objective is to contain and eradicate the disease.
“As with the outbreak last month, we will be seeking to take a staged and risk-based approach to controls. I urge all animal keepers to remain vigilant and follow the most stringent of biosecurity measures.”
A movement ban on susceptible animals was imposed today in England, Wales and Scotland. A suspected case in Lanarkshire proved to be a false alarm. Cows will still be allowed on public roads at milking time and animals may be moved for emergency veterinary treatment, but many were stranded at markets. A temporary control zone has also been imposed at a farm at Dereham in Norfolk while tests are carried out on animals there.
The Ramblers’ Association (RA) reiterated that the countryside remains open and confirmed its support for the Government’s proportional response to the outbreak. There should be no blanket closures of large parts of the British countryside, it said, as happened during the 2001 epidemic. However, the association said it recognised the concerns of farmers in affected areas and urged walkers to use any disinfectant put out by landowners. Footwear should be thoroughly cleaned between walks, it said.
The RA repeated its plea for any illegal blockages of footpaths or unauthorised signs to be reported both to highway authorities and to the association. Contact details are on the RA website.
National Farmers’ Union president Peter Kendall said; “This outbreak could not have come at a worse time, with tens of thousands of stock moving from upland to lowland farm areas in the next few weeks. We must get movement restrictions narrowed down to the area known to be at real risk as quickly as it's safe to do so.”
The National Carriage Driving Championships, which were to have been held in Windsor Great Park this weekend, have been cancelled. Horse-riding permits for the park, part of the Crown Estate surrounding the royal residence, have been withdrawn and disinfectant pads installed.
Polo matches at the Guards Polo Club, which falls within the 10km zone, have been cancelled until further notice.