Are MORE trees in Plymouth facing the chop?

Now MORE trees could face chop in Plymouth’s ‘chainsaw massacre’…to make way for a cycle lane: Locals who waged court battle over 110 trees felled by ‘monsters in the night’ for £12m regeneration project now fear few surviving timbers could be axed

Campaigners who fought a High Court battle to halt a ‘chainsaw massacre’ destroying a city’s ‘green lung’ now believe surviving trees are under threat from Labour councillors’ plans for a cycle lane.

Residents obtained a late night emergency injunction in March after council contractors descended at dusk with chainsaws in Plymouth city centre.

Just 19 of 129 trees on Armada Way – a key pedestrian route the council wants to revamp – survived the overnight felling, 16 of which were saved after the injunction was granted at 12.30am.

The devastation was likened to a ‘chainsaw massacre’ by ‘monsters in the night’ – and is believed to have been a factor in the ruling Conservative group lose control of the council at May’s election.

But members of Save the Trees of Armada Way (STRAW), who secured the injunction, now fear rejigged plans to regenerate the street, backed by the council’s replacement Labour administration, place surviving trees under threat.

Campaigners have been battling against the felling of established trees on Plymouth’s Armada Way in the Devon city’s shopping centre (pictured, left to right: Lynne Sears, Mark Thomas, Gin Farrow-Jones, Penny Tarrant and Ali White)

The felling of the trees sparked fury from conservationists within and outside the city

Members of Save the Trees of Armada Way (STRAW), who secured the injunction, now fear rejigged plans to regenerate the stree, place surviving trees under threat

The new proposals – up for public consultation which closes today involve ‘translocation’ of six of the trees – a Cockspur Thorn, two Japanese Maples, one Sorbus, one Whitebeam and a Silver Maple – to make way for a new ‘cycling and pedestrian route’ and upgraded drainage system.

STRAW says all the threatened trees are ‘shown to be in good health by the council’s tree survey’.

The ‘translocation’ proposal, which involves digging up the trees complete with their root balls for replanting elsewhere, comes despite the group receiving ‘repeated reassurances’ the trees will be retained.

Ali White, 40, founder of STRAW, is ‘not convinced’ any of the trees will survive.

She said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that Plymouth City Council have announced that they will be attempting to translocate six of the trees we saved from their felling operation in March, despite repeated assurances that all would be retained.

‘While we understand that the process can be successful, Plymouth City Council have a questionable track record when it comes to maintenance and we are not convinced that any will survive.

‘It is a shame, that even now, the council do not see that these mature trees are an asset which should be incorporated into the new design.’

The original destruction saw 110 trees reduced to stumps overnight with their remains piled up behind metal fencing – bringing tears to residents’ eyes.

Ali White (left), founder of STRAW, is ‘not convinced’ any of the trees will survive

Locals slammed the decision by the council to chop down the 110 mature trees

A consultation on the new proposals closes today (pictured is a bird sitting in one of the remaining trees in Plymouth) 

At the time, Labour MP Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, told how ‘generations of families have memories of their kids running around under those trees’ and called the work ‘nothing short of environmental vandalism’.

Environmental campaigner Chris Packham joined the furious response, writing on social media: ‘Plymouth City Council, what is the matter with you? Despicable vandalism.’

Ms White said STRAW has since been left fuming by Labour councillors – highlighting how the new council leader Tudor Evans ‘has been saying over and over that they will keep all the trees we saved that night’.

She added: ‘It probably helped them at the May elections.

‘Now they want to translocate 6 now which will almost certainly result in them dying. In January the council ruled out translocation of the trees because they are ‘unlikely to survive’.

She also said Labour abstained on votes about the trees when the Tories were still in control.

The felling of the trees caused widespread outrage. Pictured is Plymouth city centre 

Plans for the new-look city centre are pictured on hoardings in Plymouth 

Alison White, founder of campaign group Save the Trees of Armada Way (Straw), outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in March

Members of STRAW are pictured renewing their campaign in Plymouth to save city trees 

The council is proposing a £12.7m revamp of Armada Way – and had previously wanted to remove the trees because it deemed many of the 37 species present to be ‘unsuitable for a built environment’ and obstructed CCTV.

Plymouth City Council leader Mr Evans said in response to Ms White: ‘We are proposing to translocate six trees to enable the installation of the new sustainable urban drainage system, which is much needed to deal with the city centre’s rainwater, prevent flooding incidents and help keep our sea cleaner.

‘Some of the trees are also situated on the route of the proposed 12-metre-wide cycling and pedestrian route through the centre, which plays a critical role in opening up the vista to the Hoe.

A local Plymouth resident walks past the tree felling site, which attracted fierce criticism in March

A public consultation into the plans closes today (campaigners from STRAW are pictured at one of the surviving trees)

‘Moving theses six trees is a vital aspect of the overall design and therefore we have commissioned experts in translocation to outline all the options and recommend how they think we can do it successfully.

Mr Evans added: ‘We are proposing to move these trees to a new arboretum. When they are there, they will be planted in high quality soil, be surrounded by grass and open space, not subject to a harsh urban environment and most importantly, have dedicated, skilled care to give them the best possible shot at survival.’

The council said that once the revamp is complete there will be 202 trees in Armada Way – 28 more than in the ‘original, now scrapped, design’.

It adds that it is continuing to consult on its plans.

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