TREES cut down on an Oxford road last month have led residents to hold a socially distanced protest.

Fifty people living on Headley Way stood outside their homes on the pavement on Wednesday, holding up banners and chanting after eleven trees were cut down on the road at the end of April.

The trees were cut down by Oxford Direct Services, a company owned by Oxford City Council, which was contracted by Oxfordshire County Council to carry out tree maintenance across the county.

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The company said the trees’ roots had been damaged by construction work undertaken by Oxfordshire County Council’s contractor Skanska when a new cycle path was laid along the road.

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Ed Nix

But residents of the road were not told the trees needed to come down, and woke up on April 27 to find ODS workers at work cutting them down.

Now, they are asking for report to be released explaining why the trees needed to be cut down.

The residents also want a say in what trees are replanted on the road.

Meanwhile, a survey of the cost of the trees has been completed by the two councils, who are considering how to pay for replacing the trees.

Cathy O’Neill, one of the organisers of the protest and a resident, said people living on Headley Way just wanted to be able to speak to Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council about what had happened.

She said: “It seems to us we are being kept in the dark.”

“We want them [the councils] to listen to us and call us to the table. We can work through Zoom or another platform if need be. It is perfectly possible to meet with us remotely at the moment.”

She added that it seemed the city and county council were ‘passing the blame’ between them for what had happened to the trees.

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Ed Nix

Pete Conway, another one of the organisers, said a balance needed to be struck in the future between building new cycle infrastructure and protecting Oxford’s existing trees.He added: “This is an example of where we have the councils encouraging a more active Oxford with the new cycle lanes. But you have to do it in consultation with residents and make sure the green canopy is protected.”Mr Conway said Headley Way often had long traffic tailbacks because it was the road to the John Radcliffe, and added the trees helped to improve air quality on the street.

Local Lib Dem councillor Roz Smith said she remained concerned that the trees had been cut down during nesting season.

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Among those stood on their doorsteps for the protests were children and families.

The street co-ordinated a series of placards so that cars driving along the busy road could read a message as they passed by.

In one direction the signs read ‘Let’s talk trees on Headley Way! The residents must have their say!’ and in the other direction it read ‘Let’s talk trees! They are our lungs!’

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Ed Nix

Nigel Chapman, Oxford City Council’s cabinet member for customer focused services, holds responsibility for ODS.

Mr Chapman said there had been discussions between Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council about how the trees would be replaced and who would pay for them.

He said the cost for replacing the trees would likely be covered by Skanska, the contractor which built the cycle lanes on Headley Way for Oxfordshire County Council as part of its Access to Headington Scheme.

READ AGAIN about when the trees were cut down here

Mr Chapman said: “It is very important there is a consultation locally about any trees that need replacing and the cost should not be born by the city council and ODS.“They were not part of the original scheme, they did not cause the damage and it would be wrong for city council tax payers and ODS to pay for it.”

A county council spokesman said: "Overall the Access to Headington project has to date planted 58 trees to replace the 52 removed as part of delivering the sustainable transport improvements in the area.

"The new trees planted by Skanska as part of the scheme are covered by a five year maintenance contract. We are still in discussion regarding some tree issues on Headley Way recently highlighted."