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Council cuts more trees down ‘to stop people having public sex’

The council said it had ‘removed large shrubs, including cabbage palms’ surrounding the Belvedere shelter (STRAW Plymouth)
The council said it had ‘removed large shrubs, including cabbage palms’ surrounding the Belvedere shelter (STRAW Plymouth)

A council has defended trees being cut down in a conservation area by claiming their destruction was part of a bid to stop people engaging in public sex and drug-taking.

The issue of secretive tree-chopping is a thorny topic in Plymouth, with such a scandal recently credited with helping to fell the Conservative-led council leader and usher Labour back in during this month’s local elections.

The level of public outcry in that case caught national attention, with contractors accused of “acting like monsters in the night” after using the cover of darkness to level 110 mature trees in the city’s Armada Way to pave the way for a £12m regeneration project, since put on hold.

While the move ultimately triggered the resignation of the city’s council leader Richard Bingley, the council appear to have found themselves ensnared once again in a similar debacle.

The Devon authority has now admitted cutting down more vegetation, this time in the city’s famed Plymouth Hoe area on 23 April, saying it “removed large shrubs, including cabbage palms”.

The council said the move came as part of a move to clean up the area on the Hoe, after it had “suffered from growing anti-social behaviour, with council officers regularly having to clean up sex and drug paraphernalia”.

After initially claiming the support of the Hoe Neighbourhood Forum, the council then apologised to the group for the works – which took place prior to the recent elections – and stressed that the trees would be replaced with “planting that has improved bio-diversity benefits and provide a better home to bees and bugs”.

But local campaign group Save The Trees of Armada Way (Straw), which is taking legal action over the Armada Way felling, accused the council of “greenwashing” with its biodiversity claims, and ridiculed the purported aim of stemming anti-social behaviour, saying: “Who is having sex behind a palm tree?!”

The removal of the vegetation has sparked anger among local residents (STRAW Plymouth)
The removal of the vegetation has sparked anger among local residents (STRAW Plymouth)

Labour MP Luke Pollard said: “The final act of the previous Conservative Council just before they handed over to the newly elected Labour council on Friday was to chop down more trees, this time on the Hoe. No consultation, no engagement. Never let the Tories near power in our city again.”

In its latest statement, a Plymouth City Council spokesperson said: “As part of our regular programme of maintenance, and following feedback from the community, including local groups, we have been keen to clean-up this space on the Hoe and make it more welcoming and safe for both residents and visitors.

“The area around the Belvedere shelter has suffered from growing anti-social behaviour, with council officers regularly having to clean up sex and drug paraphernalia.

“Over the past few years we have already carried out improvement works on two other shelters, which has received positive feedback. In the latest works, carried out on the final shelter on 23 April, we removed large shrubs, including cabbage palms.

“We will be replacing them with planting that has improved bio-diversity benefits and provide a better home to bees and bugs. Works were carried out in consultation with an ecologist, who confirmed that there were no birds nesting.

“We apologise to the Hoe Neighbourhood Forum that we did not keep them up-to-date with the detail of these works. Community engagement will be a priority moving forward.”