Green Party response to Armada Way Design consultation

4 January 2024

Felled trees in Armada Way. Image: Tony Staunton

We are still saddened by the loss of the existing trees on Armada Way, an act of environmental vandalism conducted under the previous Conservative administration. An act so atrocious it gained widespread coverage in the media, sending images of Plymouth's desolated city centre across the globe, damaging our cities reputation and resident’s trust in the decision-making capabilities of this Council.

Plymouth Green Party welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Consultation on the amended Armada Way Design and recognises the substantial investment made in this tranche of consultation, as opposed to the ‘Meaningful Community Engagement’ undertaken earlier this year and prior to the felling of the trees. We also welcome the use of an external consultant, with significant experience in stakeholder mapping and weighting of representation from all members of the community. We hope that the feedback gathered will be carefully considered and implemented.

Plymouth Green Party councillors have always argued the case to save more of the existing trees and the mature canopy it provided. The trees provided decades of ecological investment, which were destroyed with little or no regard for their intrinsic value, their benefits to nature and the wellbeing of city centre residents.

We have also been very supportive of investing in the upgrade of our city centre, which will see diversification of land use towards residential usage in the coming years. This reflects the current downward trend of high-streets up and down the UK and will make our city centre ‘residential ready’ for future development, readying the infrastructure and amenity to attract investment. This needs to be a careful balance of providing investment, but not subsidising developers’ contributions to provide essential infrastructure upgrades such as improvements to utilities, services and amenities, such as play parks.

Therefore, it is important that any investment, now or in the future, is reflective of the current and future needs of our city. This also includes transforming a city that can adapt to climate change  and cope with extreme weather events such as extended periods of warm weather or periods of excessive rainfall. In short, the city centre  needs to work with nature, instead of against it, and ultimately provide an environment conducive to healthy urban living to benefit the wellbeing of its inhabitants.  

Several aspects of this project remain unknown. The drive to regenerate the city centre, the residential urban and cultural setting is largely in the hands of developers, and as with any redevelopment it is beholden to changes in the national and global economy, therefore a plan should offer a degree of flexibility to reflect changes outside of the Council’s control. As we have seen with other projects in Plymouth, such as the Royal William Yard, and the Civic Centre, change can take over a decade.

We appreciate the financial situation that many councils find themselves in, the need to attract investment and income generation through land and property transactions can be very appealing, especially as Plymouth is competing with other city centres for developer investment. The Council therefore needs to carefully consider the important role that nature plays in making the city centre climate resilient and habitable, therefore consultation with developers pertaining ecology and climate resilience as their core ethos should be considered in the early stages of any pre-development planning and investment by the council. In fact, climate impact and resilience is becoming a bigger concern for home buyers. This in turn should help shape the design of the Armada Way.

At the beginning of the consultation period, Cllr Lauren McLay and Cllr Ian Poyser met with the Council’s independent consultation team where they expressed the following points for consideration by the Council:

The consultation process

  • We raised the point of accessibility of the consultation process, pressing for a need to ensure those facing digital exclusion can still access the process.
  • Provision of information and timely responses to questions from groups who request information will be critical to building confidence in the process.
  • We have always strongly supported the need for the Council to consider the views of campaign groups such as Plymouth Cycling Campaign, Plymouth Tree People, STRAW  and other relevant organisations in the city, particularly those concerned with accessibility and inclusion. The timely provision of information creates a culture of transparency and trust between Council and Community.

Carbon impact

Given the Council has committed to addressing the climate and ecological emergency through a public declaration and a follow up Action Plan, this project should be underpinned by a carbon impact report taking into account the procurement of material, works, waste, carbon sequestration against the baseline of the original Armada Way and its trees, before they were felled. This report should help guide the Council’s decision making and iterate the final design. We call on the administration to deliver this report alongside the revised plans at the extra meeting of the Growth and Infrastructure Scrutiny Committee.

Trees, shrubs and vegetation

We recognise that the provision of trees in urban settings can be challenging, particularly in the  longer term where land use is expected to change from retail and commercial to residential. Balancing the needs of future development and the benefits of nature needs to be strongly considered.

  • The provision of tree canopy is just as important as the number of trees being retained or replanted. The canopy cover provided by the original Armada Way trees, measured in SqM needs to be restored, as a minimum. This should be a prime objective of the new proposals. Canopy cover provides significant shading, cooling and wind speed reduction, plus opportunities to attract a wider variety of birds into the city centre.
  • Therefore,
    • the selection of native tree species capable of restoring the original canopy cover needs to be considered.
    • the long term management and maintenance needs to be considered, well beyond the current proposed two years.The needs to be a commitment to a minimum 25-30 year management plan for trees. This could be underpinned by a bond to ensure finance is always available to ensure proper maintenance and replacement of trees.
    • the carbon impact of sourcing trees also needs to be considered. Importing mature trees from outside the UK will have a higher carbon impact and therefore reduce their ability to offset other carbon emissions related to the project.
    • The provision of decorative lighting in trees will disrupt and  deter wildlife
  • Translocating trees wasn’t a viable option as part of the January consultation, why does this now form part of the proposal? If the Council cannot clearly demonstrate to the public why the six trees need to be translocated, an alternative design solution must be found. A number of mature trees have remained part of the redesign of Old Town Street.
  • Maximising the provision of green spaces, promoting community engagement events & activity - bird boxes, bee hotels, wildflower planting and community gardens where enthusiastic residents can take some ownership of the space.
  • Meet and consult further with tree campaign groups to discuss any alternative proposals, 
    so that groups can be confident their views have been taken into account

Outdoor Play and Recreation Areas

  • We should also be looking to enable adults to get outside and exercise in nature. The Council may like to consider the provision of outdoor gym equipment in these plans, particularly if the centre will accommodate more residents in the future.
  • We welcome the provision for some child play areas in the design. The council should consider aligning the introduction and expansion of play areas as the city centre diversifies in the coming years, this is to ensure that developers will contribute to the cost of local amenity, such as play parks and outdoor gym equipment via S106. These costs should not fall entirely on the public purse. Until then, these spaces should be given over to managed green space.
  • Consider the inclusion of public water fountains. This will reduce single-use plastic, promote healthier habits, knowing that summers will be hotter, and the area less shaded. It will help increase climate resilience and could help people prevent dehydration and heat stroke.

Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme

We recognise the important role that SUD schemes can play in reducing the risk of flooding, taking the pressure off local Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) managed by South West Water and reducing the risk of untreated sewage being released when the operational capacity of the system for storage and treatment has been exceeded, usually following period of heavy rainfall. While we welcome investment to alleviate the discharge of pathogens into the sound to improve water quality, any proposal underpinning the SUDS should:

  • Not negate the need for the future investment in  WWTW operational capacity by SWW, which will need to accommodate any future change of use to residential in the city centre.
  • Be supported by an environmental report that supports how overall water quality in the Sound will be improved by the SUDS, it should include a range of quality indicators, not just pathogens.
  • Be supported by a long term maintenance commitment from the Council to ensure all aspects of the scheme remain operational for the full depreciation of the scheme.
  • Ensure that reed bed systems are well maintained, they remain effective and do not harbour mosquitoes, particularly when the city centre climate becomes warmer.


We recognise the importance of making our city centre more accessible for pedestrians, that includes making it easier to walk, cycle or travel by other means. Therefore we consider the council should consider the following:

  • Ensure Beryl bikes racks are located at either end of Armada way, close to the bus stops at Mayflower Street and Royal Parade to encourage onward sustainable transport
  • Meet and consult further with cycling campaign groups to discuss any alternative proposals, so that groups have felt fully engaged. 

Public safety

The Armada Way redesign and the future of the city centre needs to be inclusive, safe and sustainable. A destination and a neighbourhood fit for purpose now and in the future. 

There is expected to be significant change to the function of the centre over the coming decades, therefore, the design needs to offer flexibility to accommodate these changes, but above all, the plan needs to consider sustainable principles at its heart. While the new Council administration has been handed more or less a blank canvas, it does not need to completely cover it in paint immediately. The design needs to strike a balance between remaining purposeful and attractive to visitors, with a heavy weighting towards climate resilience, as a priority. There are ways this balance could be achieved without the need for escalating costs.

We look forward to the Council publishing an open and transparent response to the consultation period, taking on board the views of the public, businesses, community and campaign groups. 

We are pleased that the revised and final design, alongside a full carbon impact report, will be presented to the Growth and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny committee for review and debate prior to cabinet approval to proceed.

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