The council’s new leader has announced that an independent review will examine how the authority handled the Armada Way redevelopment which saw 110 of 129 trees cut down to make way for a £12.7m upgrade to the city’s main thoroughfare.
The felling of 110 trees – only halted due to an injunction brought by pressure group Straw (Save the Trees of Armada Way) – hit local and then national headlines with scores of celebrities, activists and wildlife campaigners rounding on the then Conservative-led council. The tree issue was cited by some as the reason why the Conservatives lost power at the recent local elections, although many argued that other local and national issues – not least the cost of living crisis – played a bigger part.
In late April, Plymouth City Centre Company (PCCC) urged the council to take steps to get the redevelopment back on track and said the delay was damaging trade. It recognised the upset the night time tree-felling caused but stressed the trees were not a major attraction for shoppers and that the redevelopment would be environmentally-friendly, with 169 semi-mature trees to be planted, and could give the city one of “the finest tree-lined boulevards in Europe”.
However, Cllr Evans later said that sorting out Armada Way was one of the “top priorities of the new administration”.
At the full council meeting on March 27 members agreed a recommendation to ask the cabinet to set up an independent review into the handling of the Armada Way redevelopment, leading up to the decision to fell the trees.
At the cabinet meeting today [July 10], council leader Tudor Evans announced that a review would be commissioned that will:
- Be truly independent, with an independent and senior chair
- Look in detail at the decision making process that took place, both in terms of legality and good governance
- Examine how well the Council engaged with stakeholders throughout the process and the extent to which feedback was incorporated into the plans
- Examine the impact of the project on the local environment
- Set out the financial implications of what has happened, including the costs directly to the council
Cllr Evans, said: “Whilst it was not my administration that was responsible for the taking the decision to fell the trees on Armada Way, it has been my number one priority since taking control of the council to overturn the March decision, clean-up the mess, rebuild our reputation and move forward with a positive plan that will bring life back into the city centre.
“Our new Corporate Plan sets out our ambition to take responsibility for our decisions and the impact of our actions. Therefore, we need to understand what happened and learn from any lessons.
“Whilst the detail is still being worked up, the review will be thorough, independent and the findings will be shared publicly.
“As soon as we have consulted on a new scheme and finished the clean-up of the current mess on Armada Way, I want this review to move forward.”
Council staff are currently working on terms of reference for the review, it will take place before the end of the year, and will be presented to full council for consideration when it is completed.