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CONCERNS have been raised about the potential loss of trees caused by an ‘environmentally friendly’ hydro-electric scheme.

Plans to build a £500,000 micro-hydro generator and information centre next to Osney Lock in Oxford will cause more environmental damage than the green project warrants, it is claimed.

A public meeting to discuss the proposals is being held today from 10.30am till noon at West Oxford Community Centre, Botley Road.

Local community group West Oxford Community Renewables (WOCRe) has submitted a planning application for the hydro scheme and visitor information centre on a small island beside the towpath at Osney Lock.

The scheme would be funded by encouraging local people to buy shares in the scheme.

Electricity generated from the Thames is expected to power 50 homes. But the scheme could only hope to win approval if an exotic 60ft Himalayan Cedar, a Lawson Cypress, a multi-stemmed sycamore and crab apple trees are felled.

A council spokesman said if the trees were left in place, it would have to refuse permission because the scheme would be potentially harmful to the cedar.

However, it had advised WOCRe to chop it down and re-planted other trees.

WOCRe has now amended the plans.

Residents say it is too high a price to pay, with the “green” scheme damaging the local landscape and local wildlife.

Tom Rainey, the landlord of riverside pub The Punter, said: “I can’t believe that a proposal meant to help the environment will mean the chopping down of trees. It is meant to move us forward in ecological matters, not backwards. It seems that if a scheme mentions ‘renewable energy’ anything goes.”

Landscape architect Michael Lear, of East Street, said: “The trees are a good habitat for all sorts of birds. There are not many evergreen trees in Osney and this exotic evergreen Himalayan Cedar is perfect in the context of the lock keeper’s house. “It is one of the biggest trees in Osney. Although it is only 40 years old, it is has grown vigorously because of vaporisation from the cascading water.”

And Jill Moss, who lives in nearby West Street and keeps a boat on Osney Marina, said: “I think this is ridiculous. They could easily put it somewhere else. We already have a hydro scheme here. It will also interfere with boating.”

Barbara Hammond, a director of WOCRe, said: “In terms of keeping the cedar tree, our hands are tied. We are very well aware how people feel about it. We are proposing to replace the trees with native black poplars, which are an endangered species.”

The consultation period on the amended scheme ends on Friday.