RESTRICTIONS imposed because of foot-and-mouth were lifted last night on hundreds of farms in Cheshire.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has given the all-clear to 806 farms after weeks of tests on livestock and farming equipment proved negative.
All the farms affected are in the Northwich, Knutsford and Macclesfield areas, where the county's second wave of foot-and-mouth was identified at the end of May.
Livestock on the farms is no longer subject to a movement ban and can be transported to other non-infected areas.
It means Infected Area status has now been lifted from all parts of Cheshire, except for that around the site of the recent outbreak in Glazebury, Warrington.
Cheshire NFU chairman, Alan Gardiner, said the widespread lifting of restrictions was unlikely to pose a risk to the county's single remaining infected area.
He said: "Defra test hundreds of livestock and equipment before lifting the restrictions in a certain area. I am confident we have no cause for worry.
"It means farmers who have lost stock can now move animals back on to their farms after two months of operating to very tight restrictions.
"Although I live in a provisionally foot-andmouth free area, I have a herd of calving heifers at my sister's farm in Northwich which fell under the infected area, so I have not been able to move them for the last two months.
"So I think I speak for all farmers in the those areas when I say the lifting of these restrictions is very good news. It is a huge morale boost.
"Cheshire now has only one infected area which is a fantastic achievement, and we remain hopeful the outbreak at Warrington a fortnight ago remains an isolated case.
"If so, we can be cautiously optimistic Cheshire will be declared foot-and-mouth free in three months' time."
Defra issues infected area status to all farms in a 10km radius of an infected premises.
To lift restrictions, a minimum of 30 days must have elapsed following preliminary cleansing and disinfection after the animals have been slaughtered.
A minimum of 21 days after the premises have undergone this process, blood samples are taken from sheep and goats and on all premises within three kilometres of the infected premises, to test for antibodies for foot-and-mouth disease.
A Defra spokeswoman said: "Lifting restrictions allows farmers to get on with day-to-day farming activities more easily, though care and stringent bio-security is still strongly recommended as long as the disease remains in Britain."