TREES that were cut down to make way for the Westgate development are now changing lives in Blackbird Leys.

A giant pile of wood from the 60 trees chopped down in Oxford city centre has been donated to struggling charity Pathway Workshop.

The staff, who have physical and learning disabilities, make garden furniture and wood chippings.

But the charity was forced to lay off six staff in December and restrict its opening times to three days a week because of funding issues.

Now the free London plane and cherry wood is being used to create new stock for the workshop to sell.

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General manager Mike Fleming said: “We are hugely grateful. This is the sort of tangible support that actually makes a difference to us.

“It’s a good morale booster around here.

“We’re going to set about getting some creative individuals to design items for us from the bigger bits of wood – things like furniture, wildlife items and garden ornaments and so on.

“Hopefully we will make something that can become part of the new Westgate development.

“For the smaller pieces we will dry it all out and create things like logs and wood chips which we can sell and support the charity.”

Despite a £3,000 grant from Blackbird Leys Parish Council, Pathway is still struggling with annual running costs of £120,000 to £144,000 and £40,000 of debts.

The wood was donated by the Westgate Oxford Alliance, which is set to complete the Westgate development by autumn 2017.

The trees came from an area set to be transformed into a public square in the shopping complex’s £440m overhaul. Work, which started last month, included removing the trees from Old Greyfriars Street, Turn Again Lane and those outside County Hall in Castle Street.

Project director Neil Read said: “The trees unfortunately had to come down while we prepare the site for the development.

“We wanted an opportunity to ‘upcycle’ the wood. The last thing we wanted was for it to all go to waste.”

He said: “We have a very strict recycling target and this is the first opportunity to demonstrate that.

“All of the steel and concrete on the site will be used again.”

Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance had criticised the removal of the trees, saying the group was “disappointed” to discover two 44-year-old plane trees had been chopped down.

But when told of the wood’s donation, she said: “That’s a brilliant idea. We’re delighted it’s going to be put to good use.

“You can’t stick trees back together so it’s nice to know its going to a good cause.

“That’s much nicer than it all going to landfill.”

She said: “I might speak to Pathway about making the trust something small to keep from the wood.”

  • For more information on the charity visit pathway