Outrage over city’s great midnight tree massacre
Residents in tears after council ‘monsters’ destroy green oasis
AS DUSK fell, council contractors descended on a city centre’s ‘green lung’ – accompanied by police with dogs and private security guards to see off any protesters.
By daybreak yesterday, it looked as if a hurricane had passed – leaving lines of stumps and the remains of 110 trees piled up.
Just 19 of 129 trees on Armada Way in Plymouth remained – 16 were saved after residents got an emergency court injunction at 12.30am, and three more because of nesting birds. The devastation comes a week after Sheffield City Council was found to have acted dishonestly when it felled swathes of healthy trees.
Campaign group Save the Trees of Armada Way (STRAW), likened Plymouth City Council to ‘ monsters’. The group said: ‘We are witnessing monsters in the night. Monsters that destroy trees and monsters that sit behind desks ordering their destruction.’
Group co-founder Ali White, 40, said: ‘People woke up to this and were in tears. Everyone is just disgusted. It was horrific. I don’t think anyone expected they would try to take the lot in one go.’
Environmental campaigners joined the criticism. Chris Packham shared a post by local MP Luke Pollard about the destruction, adding the comment: ‘Plymouth City Council, what is the matter with you? Despicable vandalism.’
The council said the trees needed to go to make way for a £12.7 million redevelopment of Armada Way – and it had to press ahead before it lost funding.
Work on the proposed regeneration was put on hold last November amid protests about the removal of the trees. The council conducted ‘meaningful community engagement’ on the plan last month. It published the results on Tuesday – acknowledging ‘overwhelming’ public opposition – but began felling trees hours later.
Mr Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, said the Tory-run council’s actions were ‘nothing short of environmental vandalism’. He added: ‘Generations of families have memories of their kids running around under those trees. To see the trees stacked up in piles like scenes after deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is horrendous.’
The council said the trees had to be removed because the 37 species – which included pines, maples, rowan, silver birch, cypress and sycamore – were unsuitable for a ‘ built environment’ and obstructed CCTV.
It added: ‘For reasons of public safety, we scheduled the works to be carried out at night with as few people around as possible.’ It said 169 ‘semi-mature new trees would be planted around Armada Way and officers would investigate wider tree planting in the city centre’.
The council said its redevelopment will include an amphitheatre with fountains, areas for picnics, outdoor games and table tennis tables, wildflower areas, a children’s play area and a cycle lane.