Statement on horse chestnut tree in Between Towns Road

Published: Friday, 3rd January 2020

We have received several enquiries about a horse chestnut tree in Between Towns Road. Here is our statement:

The horse chestnut tree behind the development hoarding in Between Towns Road has clear signs of extensive internal decay to the main trunk, which means large branches are at risk of breaking and falling.

Our expert arboriculturalist inspected the tree in May 2015 – long before the redevelopment of the site was proposed – with a view to protecting it with a Tree Preservation Order, but concluded this was not appropriate because of the tree’s poor structural condition and short life expectancy.

If the tree were retained we would have to heavily prune or pollard it repeatedly to ensure the public is safe from falling branches. This would remove most of the branches and dramatically reduce the leaf cover, and there would be a high risk that just the first pruning or pollarding would kill the tree due to its age and poor condition.

We pollard many trees across the city, but these have often been managed as pollards since an earlier age and are in better condition, and usually they are species such as willow that respond better to pollarding than horse chestnut.

If the horse chestnut was in a stronger condition and had a long life expectancy, we would have designed the new housing development – which features 38 new homes, including new social housing – around the tree.

We are planning to plant new trees as part of the development, which comes on top of the 2,000 trees we planted with community groups in November as part of Tree Week.

Oxford has 248,200 trees – which, at nearly two trees per person, is double the ratio for London.

Oxford City Council alone owns, monitors the health of and looks after 431 horse chestnut trees within Oxford, including a veteran example in Headington Hill Park that has branches that have rooted where they touch the ground.