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Save Our Statues: But Cut Down the Trees

After 110 trees were felled overnight in Plymouth, Katherine Denkinson looks at the city’s climate-change-sceptic head of Council and his links to the Tufton Street network of lobbyists

Trees felled in Plymouth. Photo: Katherine Denkinson

Save Our StatuesBut Cut Down the Trees

After 110 trees were felled overnight in Plymouth, Katherine Denkinson looks at the city’s climate-change sceptic head of Council and his links to the Tufton Street network of lobbyists

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On the morning of 15 March, the residents of Plymouth awoke to discover that contractors had felled 110 trees on Armada Way – a main thoroughfare in the centre of town. The action, part of the Conservative Council’s ‘Regeneration Project’, was met with anger from local residents, 1,537 of whom had signed a petition against it.

Having started the work on Tuesday night under cover of darkness and protected by security guards, they were forced to stop at 1 am on Wednesday after local activists STRAW (Save the TRees of Armada Way) filed an injunction against the council. Later that morning, Labour councillor Luke Pollard tweeted that it amounted to “environmental vandalism”, comparing the area to the deforested Amazon. 

But why were the council, who have previously pledged to “deliver a green social prescribing programme, to promote engagement with nature for health and wellbeing”, destroying mature trees to begin with?

New George Street in Plymouth. Photo: Katherine Denkinson

The answer possibly lies with the head of the council – Richard Bingley – who signed off on the work. Cybersecurity expert Bingley took up his role with Plymouth City Council (PCC) in March last year after the previous leader, Nick Kelly was removed by a vote of no-confidence. Having started his political career working for Labour before moving to UKIP and then defecting to the Conservatives, Bingley told PCC that he wanted to establish “stability” and “more scrutiny of council affairs.”

Primarily a businessman, Bingley was a director of the Save Our Statues (SoS) initiative which was formed in 2020 to “speak up for law and order – as well for our history – and to ensure that no more statues [fall]”. Based at 55 Tufton Street – a location which has become synonymous with shadowy pro-Brexit, anti-climate change think tanks – the venture appears to have done little in the two years it was active and was dissolved last year with only £200 in the bank. 

SoS’s other director is Peter Whittle – a former UKIP MEP and Tufton Street veteran, with links to anti-immigration group Migration Watch and hard Right Tory youth collective the Orthodox Conservative Group, many of whom were invited to his 2020 yearly party along with alt-Right mouthpiece and darling of the Atomwaffen Division, Andy Ngo.

Tufton Street is also home to Whittle’s Libertarian media company  – the New Culture Forum –  and his most recent venture Emmnon; the address of which was swiftly changed last month after Byline Times approached him for comment regarding the nature of the business. It is still not known what Emmnon actually does. 

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In 2021, making regular appearances on Whittle’s Youtube show “Counterculture”, Bingley provided weekly updates on the supposed horrors being enacted against the UK’s long-suffering statuary.

One year earlier, he had appeared on the show alongside hard Right pundit James Delingpole discussing Green initiatives. Speaking about a trip to Germany, Bingley commented that the landscape had been “plastered with turbines”, adding that he “didn’t believe that the communities were consulted” and felt that their inclusion was part of a “sweeping government initiative”.  

In the same conversation, he referred to climate change creating “large amounts of drought areas”, saying that, in thirty years, “the world may be livable [or] it may not be” and that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had “adjusted to living in barren sandy landscapes”. Bingley finished by saying that he did not feel people should “worry too much about climate change in itself”. 

The video was later included in a piece published on the website of Net Zero Watch  – a climate change denial group also based at 55 Tufton Street.

Despite the right-wing sceptical insistence that climate change is nothing more than Leftist “alarmism”, the facts are well-established, with the global temperature having increased significantly in the last ten years.

The Met Office predicts that, as a direct result of climate change, the UK will be seeing warmer winters, hotter summers and more extreme weather changes in the near future. As a coastal town, Plymouth will be at increased risk of flooding along with potentially devastating outcomes for our sea life and moorlands. Tree planting is one way to counteract this.

From this perspective, challenging the Conservatives’ current Net Zero plans and playing down the very initiatives which Plymouth City Council have implemented in their Climate Emergency Action Plan would seem counterproductive. Regarding plans for their regeneration scheme, the PCC website states that they will be “planting 169 new trees which are more resilient to an urban environment.” Why the existing trees, which have successfully withstood the urban environment for at least twenty years, could not be allowed to remain is unknown.

Byline Times reached out to Cllr Bingley for comment but he has yet to respond.

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