Tory Plymouth Council do a Sheffield on their trees – Owl
Plymouth people say they are in “traumatised” and in mourning after the Armada Way tree felling – as it emerges a consultation showed the public was not in favour of the scheme. Plymouth City Council’s own “meaningful engagement” process resulted in an “overwhelming objection” to the proposal.
William Telford www.plymouthherald.co.uk
A council document said that 68% – that’s 1,537 people – of all respondents did not support the £12.7m Armada Way upgrade plan, with 16% (365) in support and 15% (330) answering “yes” but with changes being made. And submissions from within the city boundaries again showed an overwhelming majority of respondents opposed to the scheme.
But the council said that if it took out the responses from people opposed who did not give a reason why “then the scheme has significant support.” It blames action group Straw (Save the Trees of Armada Way) for having a “significant impact” on the responses.
Straw founder Alison White told PlymouthLive: “The people of Plymouth could not have made it clearer, this is not what we wanted. The results of the survey indicate that clearly.”
Contractors moved in to cut down trees in Armada Way at about 8pm on Tuesday, March 14 – just hours after the council had signed an executive order saying the upgrade of the thoroughfare could proceed. Fencing was put up and police with dogs, and security staff, patrolled the site while contractors used chainsaws and heavy machinery to chop trees from the top and bottom.
The tree-felling was stopped at about 1am when Straw served a court injunction on the council. About 110 of 129 threatened trees had been removed by this time.
A legal battle is now ensuing with Straw starting a judicial review process. A fundraiser to pay for legal costs has already passed £5,500 in donations.
Meanwhile, when PlymouthLive visited the site we were besieged by members of the public angry at the tree felling. From small children to elderly shoppers, they stopped to say they were saddened and disappointed both by the tree removal and the way the council had handled the process. One woman simply said: “It’s heartbreaking.”
Lynne Sears and her mother Una Sears had campaigned to save the water feature before adding their voices to the tree protest. Lynne said: “I’m traumatised. The sight of this is gut-wrenching. Kids are crying, they can’t believe adults could do this.”
Una added: “It’s so sad. Just look at it. I was shocked, the council kept this (tree removal) so quiet.”
Gin Farrow-Jones, an artist from Stonehouse, even made a wood and card coffin to symbolise the death of the trees. She said: “I’m devastated, enraged and traumatised. This coffin symbolises the death of the trees,the death of democracy and the death of the voice of the people of Plymouth.”
Cllr Nick Kelly, a former Conservative now leader of the Independent Alliance Group, said he had rejected early plans for the redevelopment when he was leader of the council. He said: “What’s the point of having a £12.7m scheme so many people are against?”
Work on the regeneration for Armada Way was put on hold in November 2022 due to the row over the tree removal. Plymouth City Council carried out a“meaningful community engagement” on the plan in February and only on Friday said it was finalising reports which will be made public.
But the decision was then made on Tuesday to press ahead with the scheme, funded with £2.7m from the Transforming Cities Fund for walking and cycling – which is time restricted meaning work had to begin by a certain date – and £10m of council capital funding.
The council said that following the engagement programme the final design was changed so 169 semi-mature trees would be planted, there would be a revised tree planting schedule and a commitment to investigate wider tree planting in the city centre. It meant an additional 19 semi-mature trees would be included, with more evergreens and wider canopy trees, and an extra existing tree would be retained. .
The council explained it was planned to remove 129 trees, keep 24 existing trees and leave a further three trees which had been earmarked for removal but had been identified as having birds nesting in them. The council said that for reasons of public safety and impact on the city centre, and given the size of the tree machinery due to come onto Armada Way, it scheduled the works to be carried out at night with as few people around as possible.
“We aimed to minimise the disruption caused to the public and businesses by cordoning off parts of Armada Way,” a spokesperson said. “All but 16 of the trees due to be felled are now down. In total 110 trees were felled but an injunction served at 1am meant we had to halt the works entirely.
“The plan had been to remove all the felled trees and shave off and make safe any stumps along the main pedestrian routes once all the trees had come down before the start of the working day. Unfortunately the injunction meant we had to stop work.
“The contractors cleaned up the site and installed more fencing to ensure the felled wood is out of bounds. Other trees that remain are three which have bird nests and 24 which were due to remain under the revised plans.”