Council sparks fury as workers begin chopping down 129 trees ‘under cover of darkness’ as part of controversial £12.7million regeneration project
- Plymouth City Council has come under fire after felling trees in the town centre
- Critics labelled council leaders ‘monsters of the night’ after overnight chopping
Furious residents have blasted their council after workers began chopping down trees along their city’s central boulevard ‘under cover of darkness’.
The Conservative-run Plymouth City Council suddenly gave the green light on Tuesday evening to remove more than a hundred trees following months of delay – despite facing heavy criticism over the plans.
Campaigners collected more than 12,000 signatures as part of a petition against removing the trees but the council pressed ahead, citing the need to create a ‘business friendly’ centre as part of a £12.7m regeneration.
Protesters turned out in Plymouth city centre after contractors moved in to cut down the trees but were well outnumbered by police and security guards.
An environmental group quickly appealed for a High Court injunction which was issued at 1am, forcing contractors to halt work, but by the time it was delivered the vast majority of trees had already been felled, with only around 12 now remaining.
The contentious move has been blasted by environmental activists, with Springwatch host Chris Packham weighing into the debate to criticise the council.
For decades, trees lined Armada Way in Plymouth, a main thoroughfare filled shops and leisure businesses
The scene of ‘devastation’ today along Armada Way, Plymouth, after the council felled decades-old trees which lined the popular Devon shopping centre
The 61-year-old took to twitter today writing: ‘What the actual? Plymouth County Council what is the matter with you? What do you not understand? Despicable vandalism.’
When the removals began, Plymouth County Council assistant chief executive Giles Perritt said: ‘We need to get on with this scheme. We’ve listened, we have made more environmental improvements and have added more trees but our core priority has to be creating a smart, business friendly, attractive, city centre.
READ MORE: HOW SHEFFIELD COUNCIL’S ‘NONSENSICAL’ STRATEGY OF FELLING TREES BROUGHT DEVASTATION
‘We cannot lose sight of why we wanted this scheme to happen in the first place.
‘We know some people will not be happy with this but we hope that the majority of our residents will appreciate that we have done all we can to address people’s concerns.’
Work on the £12.7m regeneration was due to start this spring after being put on hold in November 2022 due to the row over tree removal.
The Conservative-run council carried out a ‘meaningful community engagement’ on the plan in February and yesterday evening, and its leader Cllr Richard Bingley signed off a decision notice for the scheme to go ahead.
Some defended the development, arguing that the trees and plants would be replaced by others once the scheme had been completed – but their voices were largely drowned out by others who slammed the decision as ‘appalling’.
Labour MP Luke Pollard said: ‘Appalled Plymouth’s Conservative council are chopping down one hundred trees in the city centre right now under the cover of darkness. They have not listened to local people.
‘We are in a climate emergency and their actions are nothing short of environmental vandalism.’
Charlotte Holloway, Labour councillor for Drake Ward and Plymouth, said on Facebook: ‘Feeling incredibly sad and dejected tonight at what is happening to the Armada Way trees.
‘You go into politics to try and make a difference and then things like this are forced through completely at odds with the vast majority of public sentiment I’ve heard.
Trees felled last night in Plymouth’s Armada Way, which was described as ‘a scene of environmental devastation’ by Labour MP Luke Pollard
Tree cutting began on Armada Way last night after the council signed off on the decision
‘I want a modern, vibrant, thriving Plymouth fit for the future. And that 100% can be done without taking away the trees that I and so many others played by growing up as a child here.’
Labour Councillor Chris Penberthy added he was ‘shocked at the brutal way this decision has been made and implemented’.
He wrote: ‘Ultimately the decision to remove these trees sits with the Conservative administration elected by the people of Plymouth in May 2021.
‘Plymouth Labour would not have approached the Armada Way development in such a cavalier manner and we would have prioritised meaningful community engagement from the outset.’
Campaign group STRAW (Save the Trees Armada Way) took aim at the council on its social media channels, saying: ‘We are witnessing monsters in the night. Monsters that destroy trees and monsters that sit behind desks ordering their destruction.’
Commenting on the Plymouth Live Facebook page, Caroline Tall said: ‘Absolutely disgusting. PCC have excelled themselves this time. They will regret this.’
Oll Lewis added: ‘I think if you have to do something in the dead of night for fear the people who actually vote for you might try and stop you, that should be a MASSIVE CLUE that what you are trying to do is stupid, unpopular and wrong.’
Work on the £12.7m regeneration was due to start this spring after being put on hold in November 2022 due to the ongoing row over tree removal
Plymouth City Council’s plan for Armada way. The council said an additional 19 trees would be sowed alongside 150 semi-mature new trees
Commenting on Twitter, @wolsned said: ‘Absolutely disgraceful that Plymouth City Council would do this. 129 trees felled tonight in Plymouth City centre. Done at night because they knew the public didn’t want it.’
Elsewhere, Alex Rawling argued: ‘Has no one looked at the plans before choosing to complain? There will be plenty of trees and plants once the scheme is completed.
‘How is anything ever meant to develop and modernise if nothing is ever allowed to change? Looking forward to the brand new look!’
Larissa Toms agreed, suggesting people read up ‘on the new plans’.
She added: ‘Get a grip, it’s time for an upgrade. Can’t wait to see it finished, will look so much better!’
But Erica Tiller responded: ‘It will take decades for those new trees to grow to a decent size. We’ll never see it – have you seen how small the trees in the Piazza still are years after planting? We could have had improvement and regeneration without destruction.’
A Plymouth City Council Spokesperson, said: ‘We can confirm that the Council received an injunction at 12.57am to cease the further removal of the trees on Armada Way.
‘We instructed contractors to stop work immediately. We will be obtaining legal advice once we have received the claimant’s application, as directed by the court.’
Source: Read Full Article