More than 40 trees cut down at historic seaside garden without council permission

The mass felling of over 40 palm trees on the ‘English Riviera’ happened without council permission, a new report has found.

There was a public outcry when the iconic plants were cut down along Torquay’s seafront Italian Gardens in December last year, with residents describing the move as “pure vandalism”.

The Torbay Council report has shed some light on how the felling occurred and found that while there were “preliminary discussions” of ideas for the gardens in 2019, the removal of the trees was “was not planned or communicated to the expected standard”.

The mass felling of over 40 palm trees on the ‘English Riviera’ happened without council permission, a new report has found

(Getty)

Upon the release of the report, the council said the palms removed were around 50 years old with a lifespan of 50-70 years and so were displaying signs of “advanced decline”.

There were discussions of ideas for the gardens in 2019/20 in preparation for its centenary celebrations but added that there “was no final plan”.

The report said: “What is not clear from the available records is the extent to which the proposal to remove the palm trees was known and by whom.”

It added that in Autumn 2023, staff at Swisco – the council-owned firm that felled the trees – had developed plans to cut down the trees but these were not shared with the Swisco managing director.

The council’s investigation reported how the incident also “generated considerable local, regional and national media coverage as well as strong reactions from local residents and visitors”.

At the time, local residents took to social media to express their “disgust” with the felling, with one writing: “‘There is no scenario or even universe, where felling palm trees is a good thing. Soulless council unfit for purpose.”

There are plans to plant a new garden with about 1,600 new plants and will include direct replacements for some of the palms, together with the addition of more than 100 topiary yew trees.

Cllr Adam Billings, Cabinet Member for Pride in Place, Culture & Events and Parking for Torbay Council, said; “The review is a welcome response to the concerns raised following the removal of the palms.

“Whilst the revised planting scheme offers a long-term solution to this key public space in Torbay, the initial removal of the palms was not planned or communicated to the expected standard.

“The review will allow us to improve our processes for similar schemes in the future.”

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