City chiefs launch probe after 100-year-old trees cut down

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COUNCIL chiefs have launched an investigation after five trees, all thought to date back at least 100 years, were felled.

The mature trees in the gardens of 17 Claremont Park were taken down without permission last weekend.

The 1 million house belongs to Shabana Khan, a member of the Akbar family, which has been at the centre of a number of complaints concerning other properties owned across the Capital.

A council investigation into the felling is under way because Claremont Park falls into the Leith Links area and unauthorised tree removals contravene town and country planning laws. Breaking the rules carries a fine of up to 20,000 a tree.

The house at Claremont Park, which was originally a home for unmarried pregnant women, is thought to have been bought by the Akbar family last year.

Residents' groups today raised fears that the family was planning to convert the extensive property into another hostel.

Rob Kirkwood, a spokesman for Leith Links Residents Association, said: "This is a disaster for the area.

"What has happened to these trees is just pure vandalism.

"We have written to them, tried to meet with Mr Akbar but they are not interested.

"Our fear for this property is that they will slap in another HMO application, but we will resist this."

The Akbar family has been at the centre of a number of complaints concerning other properties it owns in the city.

There were complaints of drug-taking, drunken people having sex in the garden and tenants living in "appalling conditions" at a property in London Street in 2003.

Since then there have been complaints of poor maintenance at another home in Leith, the Adelphi Guest House.

The Akbars refute both sets of complaints.

Local councillor Marjorie Thomas said: "Everyone loves trees and if the council decides to take some sort of further action then so be it.

"People feel very strongly about the trees around Leith Links and rightly so because they make a big difference to the area so we have to do everything we can to protect them.

"I remember there being uproar about Lothian Buses trimming trees on this street some years ago so I am not surprised that people are angry."

A spokeswoman for the city council confirmed the authority was investigating an alleged contravention of the town and country planning act.

Nobody from the Akbar family returned the News' repeated calls.