Canterbury District Green Party

Friday, 27 April 2012

Urgent Update - Chesterfield Tree Clearance/Network Rail Meeting

Last Thursday (19th April), after Network Rail contractors cleared the Belmont Road railway embankment of a 30 meter stretch of trees, they moved straight on to Chestfield. I've just been informed that, even now, in heavy rain, a huge area of trees is being cleared there with heavy equipment.

It would be a mistake for anyone to think that the fight currently being mounted against Network Rail in this area concerns only a small bank of sycamores backing on to Cromwell Road. You may be unaware of this but Network Rail are currently pursuing a policy that is deforesting thousands of acres of this country - in a hurry.

Having looked into this during the last week, I can tell you that many people question whether this work is part of a wider agenda than 'track safety' - not least because the clearance work often goes back 100 feet, or more, from the lines. It is, seemingly, impossible for Network Rail to be challenged on these clearance activities as the company is protected in so many ways by their statutory obligation to 'safety'. The environmental impact studies which Network claim to do remain undisclosed. Excuses such as 'soil instability within clay embankments caused by the moisture demand of trees' is cited even though there is much academic research to support the opposite view. Indeed, there are embankments which have been cleared of trees and vegetation by Network Rail, only to suffer subsequent collapse, requiring expensive shoring up afterwards. In spite of this, Network Rail continues with the relentless tree clearance work unabated. The results are devastated areas such as this at Grange Park. (Just look at the truck in this shot for scale.)

A small chunk of trees on Cromwell Road has been (unusually) granted a stay of execution until the public meeting with Network Rail on Thursday 3rd May at 6.30 (at a local venue tbc). I urge you to come along to this meeting if you are concerned about any of the following:

1. Loss of natural environment for birds, bats and other species.

2. Disturbance to wildlife corridors.

3. Increased noise and pollution from the loss of trees lining railway embankments.

4. Loss of privacy from tree removal on line-side embankments.

5. The wholesale destruction of trees up and down the country by Network Rail.

6. Being unable to hold properly to account a company working for the public interest.

Trees offer a valuable acoustic and visual screen for those who live close to railway tracks but they offer all of us so much more.
Once Network Rail has confirmed a venue for the meeting, I will inform you all again by e-mail.

Thank you for your support,

Julie Wassmer