People in Plymouth have reacted angrily after workers started cutting down trees on Armada Way last night (March 14).
Plymouth City Council's plans to regenerate the site have been heavily criticised, with leaders at the local authority being described as "monsters in the night".
In total 110 trees were felled but an injunction served at 1am meant the operation was halted.
Work on the £12.7m regeneration project were due to start this spring. But the scheme was halted in November due to the ongoing row.
Following the controversial response to the plan, the council says it carried out "meaningful community engagement" with the community. But last night, councillor Richard Bingley signed off a decision notice for the work to go ahead.
The council says this was done at night "for reasons of public safety" and to minimize disruption.
Hours after starting, contractors were forced to stop. Just before 1am this morning (March 15), Plymouth City Council was issued an injunction by the High Court.
The complainant who submitted the application were the angered campaign group STRAW (Save the Trees Armada Way).
But by the time the order was served, the majority of the trees had been cut down - now 12 remain.
Watch as contractors fence off Armada Way as trees are removed. Credit: STRAW
Some have defended the development, arguing that the trees and plants would be replaced by around 170 semi-mature trees.
However, these opinions have been largely outweighed by others who have branded the decision "appalling" and "disgusting".
Labour MP Luke Pollard said: "Appalled Plymouth’s Conservative council are chopping down one hundred trees in the city centre right now under the cover of darkness.
"They have not listened to local people. We are in a climate emergency and their actions are nothing short of environmental vandalism."
Charlotte Holloway, Labour councillor for Drake Ward and Plymouth, said: "Feeling incredibly sad and dejected tonight at what is happening to the Armada Way trees.
"You go into politics to try and make a difference and then things like this are forced through completely at odds with the vast majority of public sentiment I’ve heard.
"I want a modern, vibrant, thriving Plymouth fit for the future. And that 100% can be done without taking away the trees that I and so many others played by growing up as a child here.
"The way the Conservatives have taken this decision - rushed through, no chance for further scrutiny on the committee I sit on, under cover of night - is a damning reminder of their approach to running our city and our country."
STRAW took aim at the council, saying: "We are witnessing monsters in the night. Monsters that destroy trees and monsters that sit behind desks ordering their destruction."
In response to the work, a spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said: "The plan had been to remove all the felled trees and shave off and make safe any stumps along the main pedestrian routes once all the trees had come down before the start of the working day.
"Unfortunately the injunction meant we had to stop work.
"The contractors cleaned up the site and installed more fencing to ensure the felled wood is out of bounds.
"Other trees that remain are three which have bird nests and 24 which were due to remain under the revised plans."
The authority says it is now taking legal advice following the controversy.
Ahead of the tree felling, assistant chief executive Giles Perritt said: “We need to get on with this scheme. We’ve listened, we have made more environmental improvements and have added more trees.
"Our core priority has to be creating a smart, business friendly, attractive, city centre. We cannot lose sight of why we wanted this scheme to happen in the first place.
“We know some people will not be happy with this but we hope that the majority of our residents will appreciate that we have done all we can to address people’s concerns.”