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The leader of Plymouth Council who ordered 110 trees be chopped down in the dead of night reportedly lives in a tree-lined street. Council contractors felled the trees in Armada Way before a court injunction won by protesters forced them to stop.
Tory councillor, Richard Bingley, who leads the local authority, owns a five-bedroom house on a tree-lined street half a mile from where the trees were cut down, according to MailOnline.
Danny Laine, 26, who lives on the street, told the same publication: “I think it’s shocking what’s happened in Armada Way. Part of Plymouth’s unique character is the connection with nature.
“I haven’t lived here long but I love it, it is gorgeous around here and we are very nature focussed in this house.
“If somebody told us they wanted to chop down all the trees on the street or pave over the park we would fight against it and I am sure he would too.”
Mr Laine added: “It just seems counterintuitive that while so many cities are struggling to add more green, Plymouth is taking it away. I don’t get how anybody wins in this situation.”
Mr Bingley has been approached for comment.
Contractors began the work in Armada Way on Tuesday evening “for reasons of public safety” and had planned to remove 129 while retaining another 24.
Three more trees earmarked for removal were left because there were birds nesting in them.
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Campaigners flocked to Armada Way on Tuesday night to try to stop the felling, but they found themselves outnumbered by police and security guards.
Ali White, from campaign group Save the Trees of Armada Way, described the felling as “despicable”, adding the group would be seeking a judicial review of the decision.
She said: “What we witnessed was beyond anything we could have dreamed possible – it was the stuff of nightmares. Shocking, upsetting and utterly indefensible.
“The council bragged that they will plant a few more, but that is not what this was ever about and I doubt this is what many, if anybody, asked for when commenting on their survey for the ‘meaningful community engagement’.
“This despicable decision made by our embarrassment of a council will not be forgotten or forgiven.”
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Ms White added that the best-case scenario was a dozen or so trees were saved.
She continued: “Plymouth’s reputation is in tatters and the people who fought so hard to fight this decision have been shown that the council couldn’t give a toss about what they think. An utter disgrace.”
Luke Pollard, the Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: “It’s a scene of environmental devastation and utter council vandalism. I’m appalled at the actions of the Tory council. Sad day for our city.”
Environmentalist Chris Packham branded it “despicable vandalism”.
But Johnny Mercer, Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View, told the BBC the situation has got out of hand.
He said: “[Plymouth Council has] been through the correct processes and reached the point where they are now.
“No one wants trees cut down. The plan is to replace them with more trees. Some of those old trees were dead.
“The nuance in this has really disappeared and it’s become an incredibly emotional situation where we’re now seeing threats to hang councillors from trees. It’s got completely out of hand.”
The Woodland Trust said it was “appalled” at the use of “secretive night-time operations”.
It said: “We hoped after direct conversations with Plymouth City Council that a far higher proportion of trees could have been retained,” they said.
“The local community have expressed strong opposition to these plans for some time; 16,000 people have signed a petition and they are still fighting to save the sadly few remaining trees.”
The move came days after Sheffield City Council was heavily criticised by an independent inquiry into the felling of thousands of street trees.
Plymouth City Council said the project would “transform this tired and dated city centre route”.
A spokesman said: “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, we 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.
“Unfortunately, the injunction meant we had to stop work.
“Following an engagement programme, the final design was changed to include 169 semi-mature new trees to be planted, a revised tree planting schedule and a commitment to investigate wider tree planting in the city centre.
“We await applications from the claimant as directed by the court.”
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