4 January 2024
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.