LOCALS are outraged after a council started planting a 'tiny forest' in an area where residents say wildflowers were growing.

Last week Oxford City Council, in partnership with the charity Earthwatch Europe, started work to plant 600 trees at a tennis court-sized plot on grassland near Meadow Lane Nature Reserve in Iffley Fields.

Since the work began on the tiny forests, however, locals have said that the contractors had dug up an area of the meadow containing a recently re-established wildflower species.

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Local vented their anger on a public Facebook group called Friends of Meadow Lane Nature Park.

The post said: “We have a situation at the nature park. Contractors have bulldozed the newly re-established wild-flower meadow area, across the main path down to the river.”

The community group added that the area of the meadow was ‘re-created following an amicable discussion with Oxford council’ after brambles and nettles had invaded the original area where the flowers grew.

A spokesperson for the council has disputed the claims that permission was given to create a wildflower meadow.

The council added that the tiny forest was being planted in an area of bramble, not a wildflower meadow.

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Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for leisure and parks said: “The council has never given permission for clearance of vegetation and planting of flowers to create a wildflower meadow, as this would represent a change to the nature of this habitat which would not be suitable for this site.

“The tiny forest was selected for this location as it was suitable and would enhance the site’s biodiversity.”

The council also said that it had ‘always been clear’ with the local community about the location that the new tiny forest would be created, adding that ‘this location has never changed’ throughout planning.

Ms Smith added: “We welcome input from local groups to help enhance and maintain our nature areas, but at a time when there is a pressing need to tackle species decline and climate change, any enhancement and management of habitats must be informed by expert ecological officers and the wider biodiversity strategy in order to prevent a decline in species.

“We have discussed with the local community the need to define a formal vision for the site through the creation of management plan, which the group would help to deliver.”

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The council and Earthwatch Europe hope the tiny forests will provide an important habitat, particularly for small mammals, birds, and butterflies which are currently in decline.

Ms Smith also said that she hoped the project would become an ‘important asset’ for local schools and communities' engagement with nature.

The tiny forest scheme has already been implemented in other parts of Oxfordshire.

In March 2020, Witney became home to the UK’s first ever 'tiny forest'. There are currently 3,000 tiny forests worldwide.

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