FURIOUS residents have hit out after trees planted to celebrate the start of the new millennium were cut down to make way for a replacement Portobello High School.
Most of the Millennium Planting in Portobello has been removed as diggers move into Portobello Park, where a £41 million school is set to be built by August 2016.
“Incensed” locals said they were shocked to see dozens of established silver birch and other trees “mown down”.
They said “at least 80 per cent” of trees at the woodland landmark had gone, claiming council staff assured them only half would be affected.
But city chiefs said they had made it clear the likely figure would be closer to 62 per cent and stressed new trees would be planted. Long-awaited work on a state-of-the-art campus for Portobello High’s 1400 pupils got underway last week after delays lasting years.
Angry locals today said they had been lied to.
Portobello resident and community campaigner Diana Cairns said: “We knew there were trees going to be cut down but the fact is that they have cut far more down than they said they would.
“We were told that 50 per cent of the millennium plantings would be retained – that they would remain in the ground, undisturbed.
“Those trees had been there for 14 years – the intrusion on people in the area is bad enough. They would be planting tiny things that are about two feet high and will take years to grow to any of size where they could actually soften the appearance of the new building.”
Another resident, who lives opposite Portobello Park and asked not to be named, said: “I was incensed – I saw a tractor just mowing down swathes of plantings.
“They said it was going to be round about the 50 per cent mark and obviously it’s an awful lot more.”
However, some residents said they were relaxed, adding that providing a new school was of paramount importance.
Sean Watters, Portobello Community Council joint secretary, said: “I think the difficulty is that you draw a line on a plan, and on the line you have the school and a fence and you say, yes, the trees can stay. But then you have a contractor on-site and it gets more complicated.
“I think that if they are replacing the trees, then I can’t imagine people getting too upset.”
A council spokeswoman said: “As has always been the intention, some of the planting removed will be replaced as part of the landscaping works, including further hedging and small trees planted on the wider site, leading to improved landscaping and biodiversity across the site.”