ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have hit out at Edinburgh Council after it emerged that thousands of trees have been chopped down to make way for the city’s tram route.
A total of 3,321 trees are to be removed on the nine-mile route from the airport to St Andrew Square, the council has admitted – with the majority of the trees having already been felled. The route of the blighted project, which was originally due to have been completed last year, was finalised in September after an initial council vote to truncate it even further – stopping at Haymarket – was overturned. It is now due to open in summer 2014.
“People are very surprised at the scale of this,” said Green Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone, who is a city councillor. “When they see these old trees there one day and gone the next, they are shocked. People are not convinced these trees had to come down or these areas will be returned to the way they were. It will take decades for new saplings to grow.”
The council said there will be a net total of 50,000 more trees planted along the route than there was previously and said consultations had been carried out with the local community prior to planning being granted for the tram line.
“We take the issue of environmental impact very seriously and have worked extremely hard to keep this to a minimum,” said Gordon Mackenzie, convener of the council’s transport, infrastructure and environment committee. “Indeed, we view the tram project as an opportunity to better Edinburgh’s public realm, as evidenced by the sheer scale of our replanting programme.”
Jim Cooney, of the West End Community Council, said he planned to try to identify any trees along the route which could be saved. “We’ve been following this whole trams situation from the beginning.”
The RSPB said it would monitor bird populations and planned to ensure that no tree felling was carried out during the breeding season for birds.