Trees saved as 1100 sign up for protest campaign

Around half of the trees in a city beauty spot which were to be felled have been saved from the chop after a massive protest by campaigners.

The mature willows at the Water of Leith in Canonmills were to be axed by the city council to make way for £11 million of flood defences.

But campaigners collected 1100 signatures in 14 days in an effort to save the trees, it was reported today.

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Last month, more than a dozen of the trees had already been felled. Residents discovered more bankside woodland along the Water of Leith was to be cut down. But a full reprieve has been granted to nearly half of the trees.

Edinburgh City Council has reportedly halted the cutting down of trees because of concerns the local authority did not have the authority to do so.

Campaigner Ani Rinchen, an Edinburgh-based Buddhist nun – previously known as Jackie Glass and a model and former girlfriend of George Best – is reported as saying: “Result. We stopped the chop. The main stand of large willow trees at Canonmills Bridge will be saved.

“These trees are of critical importance and significant value of the townscape, streetscape and landscape of this conservation area of the edge of a world heritage site.”

The council reportedly said it had suspended work “to allow officials to ensure planning procedures are being followed”.

The area at Warriston Crescent on the edge of the New Town is a favourite for walkers.

Director of city development Dave Anderson said: “I would like to confirm that, of the 11 trees in question, we now have identified that five can be saved without any negative impact on the flood works programme.

“I also agreed that we would look to see what might be done by way of an engineering solution in relation to the rigging structure so as to avoid, if at all possible, removing a further two trees, perhaps, if required.

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“The remaining four trees at the gable end will regrettably need to be removed.”

The council would also “work with contractors to explore access to the water’s edge via the least damaging route”.

Work, which will remain suspended for two months to allow for planning approval, will be in advance of the bird nesting season.

But neighbours reportedly said plans to compensate by planting two trees for every one felled once the work is done would not help the habitat in the short or medium term.