Official behind Plymouth tree felling says it will be ‘really good for city’
An official behind the controversial felling of 110 trees by Plymouth council has said their removal will be “really good for the city”.
Giles Perritt, the council’s assistant chief executive, was speaking after campaigners got a high court order to extend an injunction to stop future felling.
The trees have been chopped down in Plymouth city centre as part of a programme of redevelopment to the area that includes a 1980s shopping precinct. A council consultation found respondents overwhelmingly objected to it. More than 16,000 people signed a petition against the work.
On Friday activists got an existing injunction against more trees being cut down extended. They have accused the council of trying to avoid scrutiny of the works.
Perritt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it would bring benefits. “Change is difficult,” he said. “We are really anxious to work with people who are unhappy with what we’re doing and make sure we deliver a fabulous result for the city centre. [It] will be really good for Plymouth in the short and medium term.”
The trees were removed shortly after the Conservative leader of Plymouth council, Richard Bingley, had signed an executive decision to cut them down for the £12m scheme. Council workers shut off the site, chopping down the trees under the cover of darkness. Campaigners then hastily obtained an injunction to stop further felling.
Bingley said he planned to step down on Monday as leader of the Conservative group and head of the authority. He told the Plymouth Herald: “I’ve always said I’m not a full-time politician, I don’t seek to be. I’m just an individual who is passionate and ambitious for Plymouth. If others feel they can run our glorious Ocean City better, then that’s great with me. Over to you, I say.”
Bingley faced a no confidence vote over the trees.
The row mirrors disputes over trees in other cities across the UK. The leader of Sheffield city council was criticised in an independent review earlier in March over thousands of street trees being cut down between 2013 and 2018, which led to protests. In one episode in 2016, council contractors dragged residents out of bed to move their cars at 4.45am so work could begin. The report criticised Sheffield city council for being “dishonest”.
Presiding over the latest injunction hearing on Friday, the high court judge Sir Ross Cranston said: “The injunction will continue, the remaining trees cannot be felled at least for the time being.”
He said there was a “serious issue to be tried” over the lawfulness of the council’s decision.
Alison White, who founded the campaign group Save the Trees of Armada Way, said on Friday: “The decision to completely destroy our urban forest against overwhelming public opposition in a way that avoided public scrutiny is indefensible.”