Agenda item

Agenda item

Urban Forest Strategy

Cabinet, at its meeting on 15 September , will consider a report on the Urban Forest Strategy. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

Councillor Lubna Arshad, Cabinet Member for Parks and Waste Reduction; and  Amanda Ford, Environmental Quality Team Manager, have been invited to attend for this item. 



Councillor Lubna Arshad, Cabinet Member for Parks and Waste Reduction, introduced the report which represented another workstream flowing from the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency. The strategy sought to look at the city’s tree cover and consider how best to manage and develop our urban forest.  The work on the strategy highlighted that there was a correlation between areas of deprivation and lower levels of canopy cover. At its heart was the desirability of having “the right tree in the right place”.  Amanda Ford, Environmental Quality Team Manager, added that the Council was committed to increasing opportunities for biodiversity wherever they arose, something to which tree planting would contribute although it was important  to note that it was not the only means of delivering biodiversity net gain and carbon capture.  Planting trees on important wetlands or species rich grasslands would harm our natural environment as it would destroy these natural habitats and these habitats have been found to sequester more carbon than trees . In addressing the position of the  city as a whole and, therefore land which was not owned by the Council, it would be necessary to encourage other land owners to participate. An important source of funding for this work would be via developers’ contributions coming from developments across the city where there is a requirement to offset the loss of biodiversity. Currently under policy G2 of the Oxford Local Plan 2036 developers are required to ensure that schemes deliver a net biodiversity gain of 5% over the position prior to development.  In many cases this net gain cannot be delivered within the site boundaries and it might well be that the off-setting scheme could include some new habitat creation within the city’s boundaries,  which includes tree planting.   The Committee was very supportive of what the Strategy sought to achieve but raised a number of detailed points.

It was noted that the Strategy might conflict with the city’s other ambition to increase the use of electric vehicles; there were reports of residents wishing to remove trees from front gardens to facilitate off street parking and charging. Similarly, paving front gardens for that purpose contributed to flooding risk. The Environmental Quality Team Manager said these wider points would be noted and taken into account in the preparation of the EV charging strategy,  while observing that some trees would be protected by virtue of Tree Protection Orders and, in addition, conservation area consent is required for the removal of any tree within a conservation area

Some existing and well established trees in the city caused problems for residents as they block light and or drop leaves/seeds etc. It was agreed that this intelligence should inform decisions about future tree planting and the principle of the right tree in the right place.

Management of the city’s trees fell to Oxford Direct Services (ODS) and it would be important to ensure that there was capacity to deal with an expanded tree stock. This might be best achieved by inviting ODS to attend a meeting of the Companies Scrutiny Panel.

Given the multi-faceted nature of the Strategy, a table to show which officers were responsible for which aspect of it would be helpful.

Rewilding of arable farmland was a related matter but just one alongside many others which would contribute to increased biodiversity. On balance it was agreed that to highlight it at the expense of others was not desirable.

The Committee resolved to recommend to Cabinet that the Council:

1.    Reviews the policy tensions between garden space and electric charging and develops a considered position on their interaction, and that it reviews its other climate-related strategies for similar unanticipated tensions.

2.    Takes steps to ensure that with greater number of trees being planted, community engagement over proposals is treated as a matter of priority and local residents are given an opportunity to voice their views.

3.    Makes available to councillors and members of the public information on who is responsible for what within the Urban Forest Strategy, and help with understanding who to contact in different scenarios.



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