Have your say on protecting and managing Oxford’s Urban Forest

Published: Monday, 28th June 2021

Oxford City Council has launched a consultation asking residents for their views on its approach towards protecting and managing trees and vegetation in the city – also known as Oxford’s Urban Forest.

The Council is asking for views on its Urban Forest strategy, which outlines a proposed framework on how the city should protect and expand its Urban Forest.

The Urban Forest Strategy aims to celebrate Oxford’s forest resource and the benefits it brings and provides for it to be protected, enhanced and expanded for everyone now and for generations to come.

The framework, which is a long-term master plan until 2050, covers the whole city - including Council owned, and private land – and outlines a framework for action.

What is Oxford’s Urban Forest?

Oxford’s urban forest contains an estimated 248,200 trees, which benefit over 154,600 people - nearly two trees per person, and double the ratio for London.

There are 74 species of trees in Oxford’s urban forest, with the most common trees being Ash, Willow, and Poplar.

Oxford’s Urban Forest is estimated to filter 65 tonnes of airborne pollutants each year - this can be calculated as a saving of over £1.12 million in social damage costs.

In the last five years, the Council, with the help of local communities, has planted over 7000 new trees. Community organisations are also very active for example, Low Carbon West Oxford have planted over 2000 trees and have developed a local tree walk guide to the trees in the local area.

Earlier this year, two tiny forests have been planted at Meadow Lane Nature Reserve and Foxwell Drive which will contain about 600 trees each.

Urban Forest Strategy

The Council’s strategy aims to protect and expand Oxford’s urban forest to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency and improve biodiversity in the city.

The Council’s proposed Urban Forest strategy address three key areas:

  • Protect, Improve and Manage – Protecting the trees and landscapes that the city already has
  • Expand, Enhance and Develop  - Expanding and enhancing the city’s urban forest
  • Engage, Promote and Employ – Engaging local communities and individuals in the process

The Urban Forest Strategy follows the principle of right tree, right place”, ensuring that plantings are high quality for both the habitat and the local community to enjoy.  

The strategy highlights the importance of maintaining and enhancing habitats. In some rarer habitats such as wetlands or species-rich grasslands, the planting of trees may be harmful to the habitat. Therefore, it is important that the city’s approach towards biodiversity takes in to consideration the best solution for the land and species living there.

Community benefit

Alongside highlighting the importance of working with partners, community groups and organisations in the city, the Urban Forest Strategy also highlights the importance of ensuring that all communities are able to benefit from Oxford’s Urban Forest.

The strategy highlights the importance of addressing the imbalance low canopy cover in certain areas of the city, and areas of deprivation. Some of the areas with the lowest canopy cover in the city include Lye Valley, Northfield Brook, Blackbird Leys, Cowley, Littlemore and Barton and Sandhills.

A strategy for the whole city

Oxford’s carbon emissions amount to nearly 10 times the total carbon storage of Oxford’s urban forest. The strategy outlines a plan for the whole city, not just Council owned land or land that the Council manages.

However, the vast majority of Oxford’s urban forest, and therefore the potential for expansion is on private land and out of the Council’s direct control. The consultation encourages private land owners and our communities, businesses, institutions and individuals to work together to expand Oxfords’ Urban Forest.

The strategy will be reviewed every 10 years, allowing time to see more change as Oxford’s Urban Forest grows.

Tackling the climate emergency

In 2019 Oxford City Council unanimously declared a climate emergency and provided for a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. Biodiversity was a key theme considered by the Assembly.

Assembly Members were positive about creating more biodiversity and green space around Oxford. They found that protecting and enhancing biodiversity and “greening” the city was seen by Assembly Members as a key route to engagement with communities and individuals.

In response to the Citizens’ Assembly the City Council committed to a number of actions including the development of an Urban Forest Strategy.

The city is also aiming to achieve net zero by 2040 through the work of the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership, which will help to deliver the Urban Forest strategy.

The partnership aims to provide a forum for major organisations and employers based in and around Oxford to work together to achieve net zero as a city by 2040. The core members include major local institutions, businesses and organisations such as BMW, the Universities, both NHS Trusts, Unipart, and Oxfordshire County Council.

Take part

Anyone who lives or works in Oxford is able to have their say on the proposals to develop Oxford’s urban forest to help tackle climate change and the ecological emergency, build flood resilience, promote sustainability and increase health and wellbeing for people and nature.

The consultation on the Urban Forest strategy opens today (Monday 28 June), can be completed online and closes at midnight on Monday 26 July.

“Over the past year many of us have gained a new appreciation for Oxford’s trees and green spaces both for our own physical and mental health, as well as ensuring biodiversity and tackling the climate emergency. In our proposed Urban Forest Strategy, we outline how we plan to protect and manage, grow and expand our urban forest, taking in to account what is best for both Oxford’s unique habitats, as well as our local communities.

“We want to work with Oxford’s communities to ensure that our Urban Forest strategy works for them and addresses in equalities across the city. Oxford’s carbon emissions amount to nearly 10 times the total carbon storage of Oxford’s urban forest, this Strategy seeks to do more and ensure benefits for the whole of the city.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford

On 15 September 2021, the Cabinet will be asked to approve the Oxford Urban Forest Strategy – A Master Plan to 2050, which sets out the strategic direction for how we, as a city, protect, manage and expand our urban forest to help tackle the climate and ecological emergencies. Read the cabinet paper here.