Credit: Plymouth City Council
Credit: Plymouth City Council

Today the Labour-run Plymouth City Council announced new proposals to revitalise Armada Way, which marks the start of a six-week public consultation on the scheme.

I have consistently been a vocal opponent of the plans to chop down over 100 trees by Plymouth City Council’s last Tory administration. I thought it was a bad idea environmentally and would have a severe impact on our city’s reputation. The decision to fell these trees in the middle of the night attracted national attention for all the wrong reasons and shamed our city. It trashed our reputation and made Plymouth a by-word for how not to look after the environment. It was an act of environmental vandalism, pure and simple.

Plymouth elected a new council in May and the first act of the new council was to undo the decision to proceed with the old Armada Way scheme. The trees had been lost, but this was a chance to consult properly and create a new plan for such an important thoroughfare. The new scheme needs carry the support of local people and be a source of pride, not embarrassment, for Plymouth.

I have met with Cllr Tudor Evans and Cllr Mark Lowry, the two councillors leading this work, on a number of occasions to impress on them the importance of planting more trees than we lost, of consulting properly and getting started on the work as soon as possible so we can return our city centre back to normality. I am pleased that this is what – on the face of it – the new scheme does.

The last set of consultations were nothing but a sham to cover for a council that was out of its depth and on a collision path with the public. This six-week consultation is different and I will be reviewing the proposals closely before sharing my honest views on the scheme. My initial thoughts are that I like the doubling of trees being proposed. I also like how the trees that will be planted will be larger and older, so they are less likely to be twiggy and small for years. I also like the inclusion of other nature features like homes for bees (I do like bees!) and wild grasses.

The inclusion of a large playground for children is something the city centre has been missing especially since the wooden animals on New George Street were removed many years ago. I want to look carefully at the plans to retain the few trees spared from being chopped down and what will happen to them. I also have questions around the sequencing of the scheme. I want it to start from the sundial out, not the train station down, so as much of the city centre is back to normal as soon as possible.

Our city centre needs to get back on track. In the past few years every major regeneration project in the city centre stalled. The Government pulled the funding for the super health hub in Colin Campbell Court, the project to regenerate Old Town Street and New George Street stopped, the Civic Square regeneration seemed to be going nowhere and the Armada Way debacle illustrated poor decision making at the highest levels of our local council. This needs to change because Plymouth deserves so much better than this.

I’m pleased to say that the work on the Civic Square is proceeding well, with new paving being put down, planting almost completed and work has also restarted on Old Town Street and New George Street. Positive steps have also been taken to establish the health village I have long argued for. The new council, working with the NHS, has brought in a temporary scanner on the car park in the West End as the first part of building a new Community Diagnostics Centre. We are slowly getting back on track, but we now need work on Armada Way to restart, for more trees to be planted, and for that work to begin after a proper consultation with local people and city centre businesses.

You can find the consultation and details of the revised scheme here:

The consultation is open until Tuesday 28 November. I’ll be submitting my views as a local resident and as the area’s MP but before I do I want to hear what you think so please do let me know what your thoughts are as well as sharing them with the city council.

The last Armada Way scheme and felling of over 100 trees was environmental vandalism. It was a bad example of how to consult, how to lead and how to listen. I am pleased this new scheme has learned some of the lessons from that time. It’s time we got Armada Way back from behind the temporary screens and had a thoroughfare we can be proud of. I think this is a good start.

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