Plymouth trees: Call for independent inquiry into felling

Armada Way after the tree felling
Contractors felled 110 trees to make way for a £12.7m regeneration of the city centre

Plymouth City Council is facing calls for an independent inquiry into the decisions behind the night-time felling of 110 trees in the city centre.

Plymouth Green Party said the felling was "a shameful and shocking act".

The council had paused the project in February for a public consultation but an executive order to fell the trees was signed by council leader Richard Bingley on Tuesday.

Plymouth City Council has been approached for comment.

Contractors fenced off public areas and felled the trees on Tuesday night as part of a £12.7m regeneration project before an injunction stopped work.

Armada Way
Plymouth City Council said the felling was carried out at night for the safety of people

The Green Party said councillors were given no time to scrutinise the executive decision ordered by Mr Bingley, the Conservative leader.

The Greens called for "an independent inquiry into the decision-making behind the felling of the trees".

Green Party group leader Ian Poyser, councillor for Plympton Chaddlewood, said: "This kind of ecological vandalism must not be repeated."

Campaign group Save the Trees of Armada Way (Straw) said it had applied for a judicial review into the decision to fell the trees.

Ali White, from Straw, said: "We need to understand what's gone wrong, it should not be so easy for councils to do this."

The felling on Tuesday night is part of a regeneration plan for the city centre which will mean the planting of 169 new trees, according to the local authority.

Assistant chief executive at the council, Giles Perritt, previously said although the council knew "some people will not be happy", it needed to "get on with this scheme".

The council said the felling, which started at about 20:30 GMT on Tuesday, took place at night "for reasons of public safety and impact on the city centre".

Adam Cormack, head of campaigning at the Woodland Trust, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, it was "not always easy" to retain trees in a redevelopment.

"But there are some really good examples around the country of where mature trees are retained and they can have a very transformative impact on the look and experience," he said.

"What we are seeing here in Plymouth is what happens when the value of urban trees is under-estimated."

He said research by the University of Washington in the US had connected people's shopping habits and spending with the presence of trees.

"That shows that people like spending time in places where there are big mature trees and as a result they spend more money," he said.

"So the two things are totally connected and in Plymouth what we want to see is preservation of as many mature trees as possible because once a tree gets to that mature point in its life it's a very valuable asset to a city."

'The right thing'

Phone repair shop owner Ali Arshad said overall, the felling of trees could benefit the views in the town.

He said: "It is a sad feeling you know when you see all the trees are cut down, and the city was looking so beautiful and now it's not looking good.

"It's going to be hard for the people to see the trees are cutting down, but maybe in future it's going to be a beautiful view."

Shop owner Caroline Sardu said although it was "quite sad all the trees coming down", it was "the right thing to do to move Plymouth city centre forward".

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