County commits to enabling more trees to be planted

A change in approach will help increase the number of trees in Oxfordshire after a new policy was approved.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet endorsed the updated tree policy when it met today. It will put the emphasis on a ‘presumption in favour of trees’ because of the host of benefits they provide to the climate, the environment and the places where people live.

Bill Cotton, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Environment & Place, said: “This is a bold and ambitious long-term policy to increase investment in trees across the county. Trees are valuable assets for so many reasons and we aim to give them more prominence when looking at areas including planning, transport, connectivity and health.

“We want to move away from simply maintaining and managing the trees on our land to actively encouraging and enabling more trees to be planted in both rural and urban settings. This can help tackle climate change and increase resilience to it, as well as improving people’s quality of life – both now and in the future.”

One requirement of the policy is to plant two new trees for every tree that has to be removed from county council land. It also promises to explore new tree planting opportunities and extra investment to carry it out, stricter guidelines for those wanting to remove existing trees and implement proactive care to prolong the lives of established trees.

The main climate benefits of trees, due to their ability to mitigate extremes of heat, cold, wind, rain, and drought, include:

  • removing and storing carbon from the air
  • reducing urban temperatures through canopy cover
  • preventing flooding by reducing the pressure on drainage systems
  • wind speed reduction
  • cutting air pollution
  • enhancing biodiversity
  • supporting sustainable agriculture.

Their presence has also been shown to contribute directly to improved wellbeing and mental health, enhance street design and even reduce crime. Research has shown that public open space with trees tends to be used more than space without trees and this increases casual surveillance – deterring criminal activity.

The new policy will not compromise the council’s ability to deal with trees which pose a danger to the public or to property.

The scope, scale, and business case for direct investment into a tree planting programme will be considered as the next step for key consideration as part of the 2023/24 annual budget setting process. Money to fund tree planting would also be sought from numerous national grants, sponsorship, carbon offsetting by businesses and developer contributions.

Click Sign up to hear from us and receive the latest news and updates thanks to our fortnightly newsletter, Your Oxfordshire.