University of Oxford under fire as it fells nearly 100 trees local villages rely on as noise barrier from A34 traffic

17 July 2023, 13:23 | Updated: 17 July 2023, 13:26

Oxford University has sparked outcry after felling nearly 100 trees.
Oxford University has sparked outcry after felling nearly 100 trees. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

The University of Oxford has sparked outcry after felling nearly 100 trees in local villages without warning which residents have relied upon as a sound barrier from A34 traffic.

The world-class university shocked the villagers of Wolvercote and Wytham last week after suddenly cutting down a hefty number of poplar trees without giving any advance notice.

Oxford University started felling some ninety trees on Monday last week between the two villages in a move that has infuriated locals.

The university said the felling order was made to protect the biodiversity of the area, as they are hybrid and non-native poplars, and it is also a site of scientific interest.

But locals have relied upon the barrier of poplar trees between the villages and A34 road for a long time as it is one of their only sources of relief from the constant sound of traffic.

“We had no notification that this was going to happen and still have not heard from the university. There has been absolutely nothing on an issue that clearly impacts all of us,” said local resident Steven Robinson.

The “commotion began on Monday morning”, Mr Robinson told the Oxford Mail on Sunday, adding that a “procession of tractors” had been seen leaving the site since.

By cutting down the trees, they are killing off wildlife,” a Goff Street resident who wishes to remain anonymous added.

“What’s more the whole consultation process was non-existent.”

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The University has come under fire for the order.
The University has come under fire for the order. Picture: Alamy

Residents of Wolvercote said the level of noise in their area is already beyond what is considered safe due to the traffic on the A34.

The poplar trees cut down by the university were situated on university-owned land, along Godstow Road.

Rob Whitty, Wolvercote villager and campaigner for an acoustic sound barrier for the village, said: “Everybody that has received the news that 90 trees were going to be cut down is shocked.

“The felling of the poplars is linked to the sound levels in the area because the trees acted as some sort of mitigation to the noise of the A34.

“Now it is only going to get worse.”

“The university regrets having to remove these trees, but wants to stress that this work was urgently and solely necessary to protect biodiversity in the thousand-year-old protected Site of Special Scientific Interest,” a spokesman for Oxford University said.

“The SSSI is of local and national importance.

“In particular, the vegetation forming ‘MG4 grassland’ on the site is of particular conservation importance due to its rarity.

“All works were carried out with the agreement of the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

“The university is engaging with communities local to Baynham's Meadow around how we are replanting the area affected by our work with a more suitable species of tree.”

City councillor for Wolvercote, Jo Sandelson, has asked why neither the council or residents were informed of the felling order that was put in place.

“There was considerable concern from hundreds of people living just across the mill stream on the Mill site and in Webb’s Close.

“They woke to the sound of chainsaws this week and trees crashing down only tens of metres from their homes.

“The tall Poplars have offered a visual screen to the A34 which passes nearby and these trees make a large difference in the transmission of traffic noise.

“This is another reason why National Highways should make Wolvercote an NIA (Noise Important Area) and provide a sound barrier to protect the local population.”

Ms Sandelson has previously called on National Highways to admit that the village of Wolvercote is in need of protection from noise pollution caused by the A34.

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