Council publishes Urban Forest Strategy for Oxford

Published: Thursday, 11th November 2021

Oxford City Council has published its strategy for how it aims to protect, manage and enhance the trees and hedgerows in the city – also known as Oxford’s Urban Forest.

The Urban Forest Strategy celebrates the environmental and social benefits of Oxford’s forest resource and aims to safeguard them for future generations.

The strategy provides a framework for action on public and private land across the city between now and 2050.

What is the strategy?

The Urban Forest Strategy aims to help tackle the climate and ecological emergencies and improve biodiversity in the city. It has three main goals:

  • 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

To achieve these goals, the strategy encourages better management, improved biosecurity and planting to increase the size, diversity and resilience of the Urban Forest.

Where the strategy encourages new planting, it follows the principle of ‘right tree, right place’. This means identifying the areas that would benefit most from new planting and avoiding damage to existing habitats of value, including species-rich grasslands and wetland.

The full Urban Forest Strategy can be found here.

Oxford’s Urban Forest

The majority of Oxford’s Urban Forest is on private land and outside of the Council’s direct control. This means developers, businesses, institutions, community groups and individuals have a crucial role to play in its expansion.

The strategy provides a framework for how these groups can work together, with the Council’s support, to achieve this.

The Council will seek to secure greater canopy cover through the planning system, by supporting development that protects and plants trees, hedgerows and shrubs. It will also support landowners with guidance on what and where to plant to enhance the biodiversity value and landscape character of the city.

Oxford City Council owns and manages just over 600 hectares of accessible green space in the city and surrounding area, including a country park, 33 nature areas and over 60 urban parks.

The Council already manages trees, hedgerows and shrubs on its land, as well as most street trees.

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

Through the Urban Forest strategy, the Council will assess the potential for tree planting and natural regeneration elsewhere on land it manages and owns.

Zero Carbon Oxford

In 2019 Oxford City Council unanimously declared a climate emergency and provided for a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. Protecting and enhancing biodiversity and “greening” the city was seen by Assembly Members as a key route to engagement with communities and individuals.

Improving biodiversity is key as part of the Council’s work to achieve a Zero Carbon Oxford by 2040 through the work of the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership..

It also features prominently in the Oxford Local Plan 2016-2036, which requires developers to deliver a net gain in biodiversity.

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 all communities are able to benefit from Oxford’s Urban Forest.

“Trees and green spaces benefit both our own physical and mental health, as well as ensuring biodiversity and tackling the climate emergency.

“After carrying out consultation over the past few months we have now published our Urban Forest strategy which highlights how we intend to protect and enhance Oxford’s Urban Forest. Our approach of  ‘right tree, right place’ aims to ensure that when we plant new trees, they are in areas that will benefit the most from new planting and avoiding damage to existing habitats. By following this strategy we aim to safeguard Oxford’s Urban Forest for future generations.”
Councillor Lubna Arshad, Cabinet Member for Parks and Waste Reduction, Oxford City Council