Almost 15,000 people have signed a petition to save 129 mature trees in Plymouth city centre that are earmarked for removal under an urban redesign plan by the council.
Campaign group Straw, Save the Trees of Armada Way, has been fighting to raise awareness of the plans to remove the trees, which it says are being rushed through despite public opposition.
The group now has one week to engage the community and gather views after a speech by campaigner Mark Thomas to the council last week that said the public had been “failed”.
Ali White, co-founder of Straw, said: “Plymouth City Council has made the unthinkable decision to fell almost every tree on a 380m stretch of Armada Way (an area described on their own website as an ‘urban forest’) in order to reimagine an outdated 80-year-old vision of the city.
“We are fighting to save the trees and asking the council to re-design the scheme to incorporate as many healthy, mature, much-loved trees as possible. We started the campaign because we felt as though the people of Plymouth should have had a say in whether these trees are felled or not.
“It is public land, nearly £13 million of public money is being spent and the public has not been consulted.”
White said the public were only consulted previously in 2018, but added “The information provided made no reference to felling any trees, let alone nearly all,” White added.
The trees are on Armada Way in Plymouth, a broad pedestrianised street, and would be replaced by semi mature trees under new council plans for an urban bike route. Plymouth has a climate emergency action plan, as well as a Plan for Trees.
Urban trees are key for providing shade, urban cooling and water absorption, as well as improving air quality, storing carbon and bringing wildlife habitats into cities.
The Plymouth campaign is the second major city fighting to save its own trees. In 2018, Sheffield campaigners reached a truce with the council and contractors, which had begun ripping out mature trees from the city’s streets despite public backlash.
Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) are supporting the Plymouth campaign and in comments made on the city’s tree survey, said: “While we may not reside in the city, STAG and other citizen’s groups are wholly supportive of the opposition to your plans being bulldozed through in the face of loud, determined and reasonable opposition.”
Public support for Plymouth city’s trees comes alongside a surprise historic turnout in support of rural access to nature, after a protest against a ban on wild camping on Dartmoor drew huge crowds.
In a statement, Plymouth councillor Jonathan Drean said: “I recognise we need to ensure everyone has a chance to have their say, whether they support our modified scheme or not. Ultimately I have had to balance a number of different views and opinions on the best way forward for the Armada Way scheme.
“This further period of community engagement will therefore help me consider any final changes to the plans and see whether people think they can be improved.”
How can I help?
Local residents in Devon can write to their councillor to ask them to intervene and save the trees.
If you’re not local, you can sign a petition to show support for the campaign.
The deadline for expressing views is this weekend (11 February).
To find out more about the campaign, go to strawplymouth.com.