'Phallic symbol' Torquay palm 'should be moved before it's vandalised'
SHOULD it go or should it stay?
Now the giant Spanish palm tree at the entrance to Torbay has been wrapped up to protect it for the winter and from vandals, it has been described as 'a giant phallic symbol'.
And in the latest storm over Mayor Gordon Oliver's floodlit Canary date palm on the Kerswell Gardens roundabout, there have been calls for it to be removed.
It has been labelled a 'ludicrous blemish' by critics.
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And even palm tree fan councillor Robert Excell has admitted the wrapped-up tree now looks 'unfortunate' and is asking the public for ideas to improve the way the roundabout looks for the next three years before it is demolished to make way for the new South Devon link road.
Labour councillor Darren Cowell said: "It has been amazing the number of people who have said it looks like a giant phallic symbol — to put it politely.
"I think it looks absolutely appalling and if that's how it looks then it should be taken away and looked after in a greenhouse somewhere nice and warm for the winter.
"I was disgusted when I saw they are still floodlighting the palm in its hessian sack. I have spoken to Cllr Excell and asked him to turn the floodlights off for the winter. Illuminating it is just adding to the embarrassment.
"The way it has been landscaped is disgusting.
"The pile of grey stones is pretty dull and unimaginative and some would say it just reflects the state of our town centres."
The £7,000 tree was part of a £20,000 'gateway' improvement scheme at Kingskerswell which had already provoked a major backlash from some local residents and politicians, claiming it sends out the wrong signal at a time when Torbay Council is facing £10million budget cuts.
When the roundabout is scheduled for demolition in three years' time the tree will be transferred to a new site.
Cllr Excell, lead councillor on transport, said: "I was a bit surprised about the way the palm has been presented and have been speaking to the tree officer to get some sort of understanding as to why it looks that way. It is unfortunate. It doesn't look good at all.
"They say the wrapping is for the benefit of the tree to protect it in winter and to protect it from the vandals.
"I did ask them to turn the lights off at night.
"From a personal point of view, as a professional photographer, I would have liked them to wrap it up in a more pleasing manner.
"Personally I think it should stay and get acclimatised. I am a palm tree fan. But I would like to see it skirted with lots of smaller Torbay palms to soften the appearance of the whole thing, and I would have used a yellow stone rather than grey.
"I welcome anybody who has ideas about how we can improve it over the next three years, at minimal expense.
"I would like to see a much bigger palm, maybe made of bronze, because it is the Torbay logo, but that would involve too much expense."
Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Darling said: "It's just completely bonkers. Now that it has been wrapped up like this it looks even worse than ever.
"The problem is that it is just waiting to be vandalised or set fire too. It should be moved, but inevitably it will be vandalised before that happens."
Ian Handford, chairman of Torbay Civic Society, said after seeing the wrapped-up palm for the first time: "It is a ludicrous blemish at the entrance to Torbay.
"Far from being an improvement, it takes Torbay down-market. Something should be done about it, especially if it's going to be there for another three years."