Experts claim constant re-turfing ‘killing trees’ in St Andrew Square

Dying trees in St Andrews Square.

AndrewPicture; Neil Hanna
Dying trees in St Andrews Square. AndrewPicture; Neil Hanna
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A FORESTRY expert has warned that a “significant number” of trees in St Andrew Square are at risk of dying due to constant re-turfing of the land, causing soil compaction.

Andrew Heald revealed up to 20 oak, sycamore and cherry trees in the historic square are “purging” themselves due to soil density preventing them from absorbing nutrients from the earth.

St Andrew Square has hosted the Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations since 2015, with an ice rink and a number of stalls taking over the space throughout December and January.

It most recently hosted outdoor screenings at the film festival and has been a Fringe venue since 2014, although the festival won’t return this year after firms including Standard Life and RBS blocked plans.

However, Mr Heald, technical director of sustainable forestry body Confor, said the continuous returfing of the area was irresponsible and was having an adverse effect on the 
local flora.

“When we see trees either completely bare, or without many leaves, what they are doing is effectively purging themselves because they can’t get the nutrients they need from the soil,” he explained. “When the soil gets compacted, it gets packed so tightly that tree roots can’t get access to oxygen, water, anything they need to survive, so if the square is getting constantly re-turfed, the soil is getting more and more compacted every time, eventually to the point where it starts to die.

“It’s sad to see the trees in the square end up like this, especially when it’s an easily fixable issue. My frustration is that because the trees will take a few years to die, no-one is taking responsibility.”

Essential Edinburgh – which operates events in the square – said it commissioned a report into tree health in the garden last year and revealed it was acting on the recommendations.

A spokesperson said: “We take the condition of the trees in the garden extremely seriously, and indeed commissioned a report last year. While many of the trees were given a clean bill of health, some issues were identified and we are acting on the report’s recommendations.

“We are very mindful of the need to balance the need to maintain the condition of the garden with its important role as a space that is open to the public and constantly monitor and adjust our events programme as required.

“However, it is very important to remember that the money raised from the events that do take place is essential, because it is used to maintain the garden.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com