Here are answers to some of the more popular questions (and misconceptions!) about STRAW:
STRAW supporters are a lovely bunch of largely local people who really care about Plymouth and about nature. Throughout the campaign we have held regular meetings at the drop of a hat with lots of people coming along. Reports that we all live outside Plymouth are utter nonsense and completely unfounded.
Many Janners who have moved away support STRAW from wherever they now live, and of course following the felling, the story has gone national so many people from further away have been outraged and now support STRAW.
The council's tree survey showed that many of the trees were early mature or semi mature. They were mostly (two thirds) Category B which means they were of moderate quality and had a minimum of 20 years remaining contribution, probably a lot longer with good maintenance. Even the category C trees would have lived 10+ years. All of the 24 trees they decided to keep were Category B. A second classification goes on to describe 86% of the trees as either Young, with Long Retention (40+ years) or Medium Retention (15-40 years). Only 7 trees were rated as dead or diseased on the tree survey
Most of the trees were in beds, raised beds or lawned areas where roots are not a problem. Even pavements around the large avenue trees are surprisingly flat. This has been wildy overstated by PCC and in online comments. According to the council's own tree survey, only 26% of trees on Armada Way were showing signs of either damage OR a potential for damage at SOME POINT in the future. Half had had no effect on the built environment and the other 24% have or may have in the future caused minor damage but this was mitigatable.
Quite laughable suggestions have been made that we are acting vexatiously.
STRAW is a group of people who love Plymouth and want it to look great and be successful. We wanted Armada Way to continue to benefit from some of the lovely, mature trees we were so lucky to have had. Our campaign was only ever about this, not stopping regeneration or keeping Armada Way the same as it was. Now most of the trees have gone, we would like the remaining trees kept and the project to go ahead once the latest consultation is completed, all results from all consultations taken properly into account and people listened to.
The council say in 2018 that 80% of people supported the plan. In 2018 there was an "initial consultation" (it turned out to be the last one they planned to do). The council received 178 responses, 152 from the city. More people than that signed our petition on some days.
Many respondents expressed concerns about the trees. There was no information in the consultation about any trees being felled. We were later told it should have been obvious that 96% would have to be removed!
In September 2022 the council presented the "significantly changed" design at a "public information event" on the top floor of Drake Circus for 6 hours. This was not a consultation. They reported receiving 12 positive comments.
We wanted the council to listen to you. The top conclusion from PCC of the February 2023 consultation was "An overwhelming majority of respondents opposed the scheme in any way".
Thousands of people who responded to the consultation called for more trees to be kept. Following the February consultation not a single extra tree was agreed to be kept.
We wanted local people and local architectural and tree experts, local stakeholders who understood the needs of cyclists and persons with disabilities, as well as local businesses to help influence the design. The council resisted external influence on their design process, we believe, to its detriment.
The council's calculation of the BNG was based on the old metric for the BNG calculations and wildly overstated the size the new trees would reach in 30 years time. They claimed that there would have been a BNG of over 20% but this is not right. We checked this and using the updated 4.0 metric the calculation comes in more like a Biodiversity Net Loss of around 60%.
We don't think so. The council's own tree survey showed that around two-thirds of the trees were rated category B to British Standard BS5837 - trees which developers usually do their best to retain. Local and national tree experts supported our campaign and joined us last year in to call for a pause in the project to explore options. The council's design team refused to provide us with multiple documents that we requested, rarely responded to our emails and would not meet with us to thoroughly discuss the project until it was too late. We were not asking for every tree to be kept. We presented our petition when it had 10,600 signatures asking for a little bit more of what we had to be kept. Does that sound unreasonable? Over 9,000 signatures were accepted (nearly all the rest were from people who lived too far away). We have seen no evidence at all that the majority of people wanted the trees removed.
No. Our campaign was never about stopping an update. Here is video of Ali on Spotlight saying as much last year! Armada Way had been neglected for years and needed sorting out. We did not believe that this required virtually all of the trees to be removed. We wanted the council to consider a compromise and listen to what local people were saying.
LOL, no. Last year we started a Just Giving campaign to cover the cost of printing flyers and posters and to buy some art materials (although many were donated) and to cover the cost of Facebook sponsored posts which we did in November and December 2022 to try and make people aware of the plan to fell nearly all the trees and to ask people to sign the petiton. Any money remaining in this account will be donated to the Crowd Justice fundraiser.
We did not even use any money raised to travel to London for the hearing in March. All STRAW members/supporters are volunteers.
In 2023 we started a CrowdJustice fundraiser and instructed Harrision Grant Ring solicitors and Richard Harwood KC to represent us. CrowdJustice funds cannot be accessed by STRAW. All donations are spent on the legal case. Crowdjustice take a small administrative fee and the remainder is sent directly to Harrison Grant Ring.
No. As soon as it became clear a decision had been made and the trees were to be felled (evening, March 14th, 2023) we spoke to our lawyers who then made an out-of-hours application for an injunction. This involved a hearing with a Judge, who made the injunction just after midnight (which is why it is dated March 15th 2023).
If we had received the injunction sooner we would have served it sooner so that we could save more trees. It was the actions of the Council in using urgency procedures (so that there was no ability to call the decision in), in not publishing the decision until after hours, in misleading our lawyers by suggesting no decision had been made, and planning the felling to begin moments after publishing the decision, which prevented us applying for an injunction sooner. Unfortunately, a number of Conservative and Labour councillors could have pre-warned us about what was planned but they chose not to.
STRAW have never endorsed a political party or candidate.
People from all political persuasions support STRAW. We are a single-issue campaign and have no political ambitions.
The issue of the Armada Way trees is, of course, closely related to politics since politicians make some of the key decisions. We are critical of individual politicians who have made choices which led to the loss of our trees, who did not do something which they could to avoid it and if they have unfairly attacked STRAW or its many supporters. We have a Facebook chat group for supporters to share ideas and discuss what's going on. Sometimes members of the chat group express a political opinion - these are in no way the opinions of STRAW.
The order of the High Court Judge was quite clear. The council had to seek comments from our experts (tree expert and bird expert - both independent and working on a voluntary basis) on their methodology statement before conducting any work. Only then could they clear the trees and grind the stumps. Here is the order of the High Court Judge. We could not and did not stop them. The hold-up was largely due to the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which states that disturbing birds during nesting season is a criminal offence, and in April 2023 the council's ecologist found evidence of birds nesting in the brash. The Council cleared the trees while the injunction was still in place in September 2023, after the end of the nesting season.
Make sure your voice is heard
The Armada Way consultation is open until November 28th. Please make sure you have your say.