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Review into Plymouth's tree felling months away

Wednesday, 22 May 2024 08:18

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Felled trees in Armada Way (Image: STRAW Plymouth)

Two legal proceedings yet to be heard

It could be months before an independent review is carried out into the controversial tree felling in Plymouth’s Armada Way.

The review, which will focus on lessons to be learned from the events in March last year, can’t take place until legal proceedings have concluded.

The High Court has yet to consider whether it will allow campaign group STRAW (Save the Trees of Armada Way) to appeal against the dismissal of a case into claims the council acting unlawfully.

More than 100 trees were chopped down in the middle of the night as part of a regeneration scheme by the Conservative administration, but it caused outrage and the project was later scrapped when Labour took control of the council in the May 2023 elections.

Three months later the council ordered an independent review into what happened.

The case brought by STRAW was thrown out earlier this year, but the court said a number of questions needed to be answered and asked for a commitment from the city council to undertake an independent learning review (ILR).

The council’s cabinet was told that two outstanding strands remain to the legal proceedings; one being the appeal and the second a contempt of court allegation.

Agreeing the terms of reference for the ILR, which will have a chairperson and  a panel of three legal, environment/regeneration and planning experts, cabinet members heard that it could be months before work begins.

Cllr Tom Briars-Delve (Lab, Stoke) said the public wanted lessons to be learned and progress on a new city centre scheme, which was approved in February.

The plan, which has been supported by the public, is estimated to cost £37 million.

“It could be at least three months before the legal proceedings are completed,” said the council’s monitoring officer and head of legal services Elizabeth Bryant. “The court is under huge pressure with a backlog of cases.”

The review itself will take up to a further three months and will involve private discussions with officers and councillors. Members of the public will have the opportunity to send written statements.

It will help to provide a picture of what happened and whether improvements could be made to council processes and procedures.

Freedom of Information requests (accepted and rejected) will be looked at, and issues around disclosure, transparency and recordings of meetings.

Council leader Tudor Evans (Lab, Ham) said he wanted the review to be about improvements for the future, not about attributing blame.

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