A CONSERVATION group says wildlife is being “badly compromised” at an Oxford country park by a council-funded logs for labour scheme.

The Oxfordshire Woodfuel Programme sees volunteers clear up dead wood from the city council-owned Shotover Country Park, a nature reserve just outside Headington.

The Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2) says this is beneficial to biodiversity, and volunteers get to take home the wood to use as fuel.

But volunteer conservation group Shotover Wildlife says the cut wood is an important habitat for certain insects.

Chairman Ivan Wright said: “There appears to be no proper assessment of the conservation value of a woodland before trading firewood.”

The Shotover Site of Special Scientific Interest, and Brasenose Wood within the park, said Mr Wright, had rich and nationally significant fauna, with recent and historic records of threatened and vulnerable species.

He said he had discussed his concerns with Oxfordshire forestry charity the Sylva Foundation and TOE2 project manager Riki Therivel last year.

He agreed with both that there was a proportion of species-rich woodlands where the scheme would not be appropriate.

Mr Wright said: “The management of cut wood should be prioritised towards increasing the alarming shortfall of dead wood in the SSSI and improving the quality of the woodlands for invertebrates.

“The fact is, biodiversity is being very badly compromised at Shotover by the council’s parks department. It is a disgrace.”

TOE2 chairman Karen Woolley said the trust “strongly refuted” the claim that the scheme was damaging woodland.

She said: “Our activities, such as the removal of small trees at Shotover, to encourage the regeneration of the heathland habitat, are fully compliant with Forestry Commission national guidelines.”

Oxford City Council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said wood was removed from the site as part of the heathland management programme and some of it was wood cut under licence several years ago.

She said: “Within Brasenose Woods, our coppice sessions have continued, as they have done for many centuries, practising ancient skills within a modern-day management plan.”