Council chiefs have said they cannot even begin to clean up Armada Way of its felled trees until series of legal rules put in place by the High Court have been satisfied – which may take weeks or even months.
Earlier this week protestors accused the council of dragging its heels on the clean-up operation, accusing them of leaving the city centre to look “awful”. Action group STRAW (Save the Trees of Armada Way) insisted this was not their fault as they did not oppose the council removing the felled trees.
A High Court judge upheld an injunction preventing any further tree-felling after the council chopped down 110 at night to make way for a £12.7m redevelopment. But the judge allowed the council to remove the felled trees under expert advice and with Straw involved.
Alison White, STRAW’s founder, said the campaign group had called upon the council to get on with the work, saying “If they can open up part of the middle section again then there will be a few places for people to sit and the longer the felled trees are there, the worse it will be for the increasing numbers of creatures who have moved in when they do move it.”
She added: “Our reservations on the removal of the felled trees are wholly based on the fact that wildlife started to move in immediately and we wanted proper, independent opinions on whether it was safe or not. The trees are gone and we are in bird nesting season.
“The longer they leave it all there, the more chance that birds will nest in it and the worse it is for the nearby businesses. We are still, to date, awaiting the report from their ‘experts’.”
However, following STRAW’s statement to PlymouthLive, Plymouth City Council revealed that it was “always” their intention to clear the site “as the trees were felled” but Straw’s injunction and the High Court hearing “meant we were unable to clean up.”
They added: “We understand from media reports that STRAW want us to ‘get on’ with removing the felled trees, branches and stumps but we have not been able to do so until we received the final court order setting out what the council is able to do and how it must be done.”
The council confirmed that late on Tuesday April 4 they received the order “which says we must commission an independent ecologist to carry out a review of the branches/fallen trees and tree stumps and put together a methodology for their removal.”
The council revealed: “The ecologist report and methodology must then be sent to Alison White for her ecologist to review. Ms White then has 48 hours to review the report and come back with comments.
“The council will then be ensuring that it will consider the responses fully and respond to all Ms White’s comments, make any resulting arrangements that the council considers are required as result, before the clean-up can then begin.
“The court order specifies that an expert appointed on behalf of Ms White should be permitted on site during the removal of the logs and branches.
“Whilst neither Ms White nor her ecologist have a veto, her ecologist is able to attend in order to observe that the removal works of the logs and branches is carried out in line with the methodology outlined by the council’s appointed expert and ecologist.
“It is likely to take a few more weeks to commission the ecologist, get the reports written and shared with and deal with any comments from Ms White.
“Once the felled trees and stumps are removed, we will be in a better position to consider the regeneration scheme going forward.”
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