In October 2019 Hackney London Borough Council unveiled its ‘biggest tree-planting scheme in a generation’. The scheme will see around 5,000 street trees, on top of a four-figure number in parks, delivered by the end of 2022. This is an excellent response to climate change and will also see an increase in biodiversity, making Hackney borough a pleasant place to live.
In contrast, the City of Edinburgh Council are cutting down trees. Despite being signed up to the Tree Charter, the council is hell bent on destroying perfectly healthy trees in the name of ‘progress’. Thirty of these trees line the east stretch of Ocean Drive in Leith, between Constitution Street and Tower Place. These trees will be cut down to make way for the tram to Newhaven.
This is very sad. These urban trees are some of the only trees left in north Leith. They’ve been here for approximately 15 years, so together, these 30 trees have around 450 years of maturity. When they are cut down, the council is supposed to replace on a 2 for 1 basis in the immediate vicinity – that is two new trees planted for every one tree cut down. This sounds great in theory, but there’s two problems – saplings really aren’t a replacement for mature trees and unless they are well looked after are likely to perish (see Leith Links for example), and it is unclear as to where 60 trees could be planted in the vicinity, given that most of the existing green space is being concreted over for trams and other developments.
It is debatable as to why they have to be cut down at all, given that it does not appear they will impinge on any tracks or cables required for the trams.
Some examples from other cities where trams run close to trees:
Urban trees bring many benefits to the environment, not least of which is air pollution cleaning, which in such a high density and highly trafficked area such as Leith, is very much needed. In fact Friends of the Earth published their annual league table of Scotland’s most polluted streets back in January 2020, and Salamander Street, just a stone’s throw away from Ocean Drive breached the legal limit when it came to particulate matter with 19.44 micrograms per cubic meter compared with the 18 permitted.
Trees also help the physical and mental wellbeing of people. I think it’s a real shame to lose these trees from the local area, so I decided to start a project that would talk about the life of urban trees and the reasons they should be preserved and not destroyed.
This project is a response to the City of Edinburgh Council’s plans to cut down these trees. The project asked school children to help by writing short stories for each of the trees. Each tree has its own story and tells of the tree’s life.
The stories are available to read on this site and you can leave a comment about the story on its page if you want (comments will be moderated). I’ll be updating with new images as time passes and the final seasons of the trees’ lives come and go. The stories will also be printed and attached to each tree for passers by to read, and will remain until the trees are cut down.
The future is depending on us trees, but people are cutting us down. I would like more insects living on me.
I suck up all the pollution in the air and breathe out oxygen that you need. I am a home for birds and insects, and I am a shelter for wildlife like birds.
I help nature by letting birds and Squirrels sit on me. I help people by taking in the pollution and bringing out oxygen.
All the bugs and insects climb into my bark. I hope in the future I am still alive and do not get chopped down.
People like to stick posters on me, and I like it when they do that. People and birds come to me to have a look.
I love it when birds and squirrels use me for their home. It really tickles me when insects crawl up my trunk.
I always see birds and lots of nature. I help nature to get a home.
For the future I hope my friends and I will still be able to do our job so please do the right thing.
You can help all of us by chopping less trees or reusing more things, so it doesn’t make pollution.
Lots of insects and birds nest on me, but we are being cut down, so all the wildlife will lose their habitat.
When those people cut me down its destroying someone’s home. I hope in the future they don’t cut down as many trees.
I help nature by providing them a nice home to live in and I help people by giving air to all of them.
I see cars drive by. I help fight pollution. In the future I hope I don’t get cut down.
It’s good to plant trees in your garden and put a bird feeder out to be friendly to wildlife.
I would like to live a happy life protecting the world and viewing wonderful sights.
People should buy more bug houses. In the future I want people to plant more trees.
The world is depending on me to keep the humans alive, so please don’t take us for granted.
I help nature by giving them a home for the night. I love seeing my two friends, Meadowshoot and Hardtwig, at the weekend.
I love the birds, especially the chaffinch named Dave who nests in me. The baby chicks are so cute.
At night, sometimes owls come and rest by my leaves, and in autumn foxes hide between my roots.
In the future I hope I don’t get chopped down and I hope that there will be a lot more trees next to me.
I help nature and you because I let them live and store stuff in me, or just let them fly around me.
Me and friends are very helpful with the environment if a flood happens, we soak up all the water and help out a lot.
Nature is depending on us trees, but people chop us down. Do you want to live?
I am a home for many creatures great or small. When I grow up, I want to be the tallest tree in the world.
I am beautiful tree. Don’t cut us down. We help people. We help wildlife and insects. We hope you don’t cut us down.
We need people to plant more trees to help everyone. In the future we need to stop cutting down trees so don’t use too much paper.
I hope in the future you don’t chop me down.
The birds sing and dance in their nice cosy branch homes and let me join in, and say thank you for their wonderful homes.
I don’t think I’ll get to grow much more because they’re going to cut me down. I wish they weren’t, because I want to be big enough for children to climb.