THE felling of trees by the Water of Leith in Canonmills has been halted in the face of public opposition.
The trees were being removed as part of the Flood Prevention Scheme designed to protect homes close to the river, but 876 people have signed a petition protesting against moves to fell them, saying it was unnecessary and they should be kept.
Yesterday council workers were ordered to down tools so officers could investigate allegations that permission had not been given for the tree removal.
Protesters said the trees had been explicitly earmarked for protection in the Water of Leith Public Inquiry Report of 2004.
In an open letter to city chief executive Sue Bruce yesterday, protester Ani Rinchen Khandro also said the planning permission given for the flood scheme was only granted subject to the condition that more detailed proposals would be put forward on how trees would be protected – and that this information was never given to planners.
Ms Rinchen Khandro said one of the people to sign the online petition was an architect, who had noticed the items she raised in her letter: “I’m not counting any chickens just yet, but at least it’s one chink of light in the gloom,” she said of the stoppage.
Ms Rinchen Khandro said she had pleaded with workers yesterday not to cut the trees down. “When I woke up I saw a tree surgeon’s van pull up, so I shot down and said ‘Can you stop what you’re doing, because we hope there’s going to be a hold on it very soon’.
“After about an hour and a half of phone calls they said ‘OK, we’ll start off in the private gardens’, so they took the trees down in the private gardens and said they’d wait until they’d heard from the council about the public trees on the river bank, by which time they did get some communication from the council which put a stop to it, so they tidied up what they’d done and off they went.”
Inverleith councillor Lesley Hinds was one of the politicians to plead on behalf of the protesters.
She said: “There is a great concern that all of a sudden these trees are being knocked down. On Friday I asked the council to stop the felling of trees and pause for reflection and address some of the concerns of local residents.
“Obviously they just ignored that. I tried to get in touch with the chief executive and [city development director] Dave Anderson to say people are very unhappy. I got a phone call from Dave Anderson at about 1pm to say that they were going to stop the tree felling.”
City transport convener Gordon Mackenzie said: “Tree felling has been suspended to allow officials to ensure planning procedures are being followed.
“It is proposed that nine trees are removed but that the area will be landscaped and new trees planted when the works are complete. Twice as many trees will be planted along the length of the project to replace those removed during construction.”