Shock as Edinburgh Council give permission to fell 50 trees in Princes Street Gardens

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The stark reality of the culling of over 50 trees in Princes Street Gardens has hit home with locals in shock at the decision to remove so many in the city centre.

As part of landscaping works and an extension planned for Scottish National Gallery on The Mound, mature category A and B trees and 11 younger trees will be felled and replaced by 22 large saplings and semi-mature trees.

The landscaping is to tie in with Playfair's original vision for Princes Street Gardens.

The landscaping is to tie in with Playfair's original vision for Princes Street Gardens.

The decision was agreed as part of the planning application granted permission by Edinburgh City Council in June, which will create a terrace and new public space on the Princes Street/Mound level of the gallery as well as better access for the public.

The plans included changes to the gardens to further tackle access requirements and also achieve improvements in views between the gardens and the adjoining street.

Councillors raised concerns about trees being removed from Princes Street Gardens as part of these proposals. Cllr Alex Staniforth said: “There’s a very significant reduction in the number of trees on the site.

“Citywide, we are seeing our stocks dwindle. There are fewer trees in the city than there were five years ago and we should look to reverse that.”

How the area looked before.

How the area looked before.

And now as work to cut down the trees has started, members of the public have reacted to the sight of the shorn tree stumps, lining the pathway from the gallery back to the Scott Monument.

Sharon Robertson was enraged at the “sheer destruction” she encountered when 
walking through the gardens on Wednesday.

“I was shocked – year on year more and more trees are cut down; at Shandwick Place for the trams, at London Road round-a-bout there used to be beautiful cherry blossom trees, all the trees that had been planted on Leith Walk cut down for the trams, MacDonald Road all trees cut down and now Meadowbank proposed felling. It’s outrageous.”

Council landscapers said research into the historic design demonstrated the area warranted “larger oaks and limes” more appropriate to the landscape.

More than fifty trees have been removed.

More than fifty trees have been removed.

They said they were “quite comfortable” with the numbers and types of trees the developers would be putting back into the gardens.

Landscape architect Julie Waldron added: “If we were to put them all back the views, not now but in the future, might again become quite enclosed. We’re trying to open them up.”

The National Galleries is working with the council to remove the trees. A spokesman sad: “This will enable us to create a new, sloped path that will make the gardens and gallery fully accessible to people with mobility impairments, prams and pushchairs. The reduction of the currently dense tree canopy will also recreate carefully framed views through the gardens to the Old Town. These views were part of the architect William Henry Playfair’s original vision for this world-famous location.

“The work will also involve the replanting of 22 large saplings and semi-mature trees, with species chosen to tie in well with existing trees in the wider gardens”.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk