EDINBURGH'S beleaguered tram scheme has been plunged into fresh controversy, with thousands of trees being chopped down to make way for the route.

The city council last night admitted to The Herald that 3321 trees are being felled along the tram system's nine-mile route from the airport to St Andrew Square, with the majority already gone.

It is the latest row to hit the £776 million scheme, which has faced controversy over its length, delays and spiralling costs. It has also blighted residents' lives and hurt local trade.

Outraged community groups are planning to pinpoint those trees left standing in an effort to save them, while Green politicians are to call on the council to review its felling policy.

Most of those being removed are in the Gogar tram depot area but mature trees, some more than 100 years old, have been taken down across the city.

While residents in the streets immediately affected have been warned by letter, others have been shocked as trees have vanished "overnight".

Small local protests have taken place as pockets of trees have been axed – including all the trees in Leith Walk which had to go even though the tram route no longer reaches that part of the city – but this is the first time the total has been published.

Edinburgh City Council insists the statutory consultation process has been followed, with newspaper notifications and lamp-post notices inviting people to view the plans online or at council offices, but many claim this is "wholly inadequate" for such an emotive issue.

The council is to replace those felled with at least double the number of young trees, and claims it will possibly plant a total of more than 10 times the number removed.

One example the council gave was that 33,109 trees would be replanted at Gogarburn, but it offered the caveat that the replacement figures were subject to change.

Edinburgh's Green party also questioned replacement claims, adding that many were not convinced by replanting pledges.

Green Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone, also a city councillor, said: "People are very surprised at the scale of this. When they see these old trees there one day and gone the next, they are shocked.

"I have spoken to my colleagues and we will be calling for a review to report back on the works that have been done to remove trees, the works that will be done to remove trees, and exactly what they are going to be replaced with.

"Too often we hear of trees being replaced two for one – or more – but we don't know if they are.

"People are not convinced the trees had to come down or these areas will be returned to the way they were. It will take decades for new saplings to grow.

"There has not been enough consultation. Residents have not received proper advice and the notification system is clearly not adequate if no-one was able to understand the extent of this [felling]."

Jim Cooney, of the West End Community Council, said he plans to mobilise organisations along the route in a move to identify any trees that can be reprieved.

He said: "We've been following this whole trams situation from the start and we had no idea of the number of trees that were to be cut down. It is diabolical."

A spokesman for the Woodland Trust said: "It is disappointing that any tree is to be felled given the multitude of benefits trees provide, particularly in an urban environment, such as improving air quality and shade."

The RSPB said it will monitor bird populations and ensure no felling is done during the breeding season.

The council's environment chief, Gordon Mackenzie, said: "We take the issue of environmental impact very seriously and have worked extremely hard to keep this to a minimum.

"Indeed, we view the tram project as an opportunity to better Edinburgh's public realm, as evidenced by the sheer scale of our replanting programme."

Last year, the Scottish Government became involved for the first time since 2007, after it parachuted in Transport Scotland experts to provide managerial and technical assistance to Edinburgh City Council's project managers.

Finance Secretary John Swinney had withdrawn the remainder of the Government's £500m grant after councillors voted to terminate the first phase of the project short of the city centre at Haymarket, a decision he branded absurd but which was later overturned.