Council contractors began felling trees upstream of Canonmills Bridge on Friday, despite explicit assurances that they would be spared.
On 16 December 2011, Dave Anderson – the City of Edinburgh Council's Director of Development – responded to a huge wave of public protest at proposed felling as follows.
'I would like to confirm,' he wrote, 'that of the 11 trees in question, we have now identified that 5 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 2 trees.' (See Breaking news, 19.12.11.)
[img_assist|nid=2808|title=|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=640|height=509]However, this agreement seems to have been overturned by Councillor Gordon MacKenzie, Convenor of the Transport, Infrastructure and Environment Committee. No detailed explanation for the move appears on notices posted nearby, only the vague and ill-worded statement that 'the clearance of 11 trees upstream of Canonmills Bridge, will have to be felled or coppiced to provide a safe access for the construction team'.
This is followed by the bald assertion: 'The Scheme has the appropriate approvals in place with the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government'.
Plans to reinstate trees, shrubs, plants and grasses are also mentioned with names and quantities of specimens (see below). However, protestors had never objected to such reinstatement works in the past, only to the unnecessary felling of trees already earmarked for preservation under the Council and contractors' own plans.
Locals were informed of the new policy on Thursday, and within 24 hours the first of the trees was targeted. Those who supported last year's 'successful' Stop the Chop! campaign are livid. They feel betrayed, and regard the Council's actions as a high-handed piece of realpolitik designed to outmanoeuvre objectors.
'Unless we act now,' they claim, 'the final two trees will most likely be removed on Monday.'
They urge locals to protest as soon as possible about what they view as the Council's 'lack of transparency and ... cynical, underhanded manner'. They suggest emailing:
- Council Leader Jenny Dawe
- Chief Executive Sue Bruce
- Transport, Infrastructure and Environment Committee Convenor, Councillor Gordon MacKenzie
- Director of City Planning Dave Anderson
- Maintenance Manager Tom Dougall
- Councillors and MSPs.
For further background on this story, see Breaking news (11.11.11; 21.11.11; 25.11.11; 5.12.11; 17.1.12). For an October 2011 TV interview in which Councillor MacKenzie explains his lack of relevant experience in managing major projects, see BBC News Scotland.