Investigation into tree felling launched

Thursday May 16th 2024

esk

The River Esk runs through Musselburgh and is lined with trees.


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

An investigation has been launched after up to 12 trees were allegedly felled in Musselburgh to make way for a bin.

Scottish Forestry, the government body which oversees tree management, has confirmed it is looking into the removal of the trees, near the River Esk.

Unauthorised felling is a criminal offence and could result in a fine of up to £5,000 per tree chopped down being issued by the courts.

The investigation was revealed during a meeting of East Lothian Council’s cabinet this week where elected members were asked to approve a new Tree and Woodland Strategy for the local authority.

Councillor Shona McIntosh, local member for Musselburgh, told the meeting: “Just last week I had several complaints from constituent about someone who put in a planning application for some bins, hadn’t mentioned anything about tree removal and then anything between seven and 12 mature trees have been felled.”

Councillors were told the new strategy aimed to highlight the importance of trees and woodland with the public and make people more aware of the protections in place.

Their officer said: “Most trees need felling permission from Scottish Forestry who are investigating that particular case, but it is whether people are aware that that is the case.”

A Scottish Forestry spokesperson said: “We take all reports of alleged unauthorised fellings very seriously and will follow up based on the information given.

“In this case there have been no permissions given to fell these trees and therefore the action is now subject to a formal investigation. Our woodland officers will be visiting the site very soon as part of information gathering.

“Once we have completed our work we will determine next steps. We won’t be in a position to comment further until the investigation has run its course.”

Councillor Andy Forrest, fellow Musselburgh ward member, called for additional information to be made available to the public on where to report concerns about trees being felled.

He said: “The area where this happened has been totally changed and I think it could possibly have been stopped.”

The new Tree and Woodland Strategy covers ambitious plans to help East Lothian Council meeting its net carbon neutral targets and deliver a range of biodiversity, landscape, health and well being, and green network benefits .

Working along with communities, landowners and farmers it is hoped to create an East Lothian Climate Change Forest with proposals to plant two million trees by 2031 across the county, increase the urban tree canopy and expand its network of hedgerows.

The planting of two million trees will increase woodland cover by an area of around 1250 ha, around three times the size of John Muir Country Park.

The tree canopy cover target for the county is 30 per cent, which, the strategy reveals, is currently only met in Longniddry and Pencaitland.

Areas where the canopy cover is most behind the target include the new town of Blindwells, Wallyford and Macmerry which are just 10 per cent or lower.

Council leader Norman Hampshire praised the work of the officers in producing the new strategy and its importance to the future of the county.

He said: “We need to make sure we protect what we have. A tree is a climate regulator, it is not just the carbon it takes out from the atmosphere, it also reduces the water that is in the ground. It provides shade, reduces wind blow and provides shelter so having as many trees as we can helps our environment.”

The full Tree & Woodland Strategy can be downloaded from the East Lothian council website, see item 08 HERE.

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