St Paul’s Road residents at Network Rail’s public meeting last Thursday
Published: 1 June, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
NETWORK Rail’s plans to rebuild a railway embankment in Highbury – which has outraged residents who could lose some of their back gardens – will also threaten the Drayton Park nature reserve, according to the Lib Dems.
The Town Hall opposition party says it will support any legal action against the move and has also written to the planning inspector.
“The wildlife area is listed as a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation [SINC],” the Lib Dems said in a statement. “Network Rail undertook at a meeting with the council last autumn to manage the site for wildlife as well as maintain its evacuation routes from the railway line.
“The council then consulted about its policies to protect and enhance nature conservation sites and proposals to maintain Drayton Park sidings as a Grade-II SINC to reflect the biodiversity there. Network Rail then objected on the grounds that they do not believe the site to have any ecological value.
“Network Rail will now only agree to manage the area on an aesthetic basis and will not take local wildlife into account. They recently cut back trees at the site despite it being nesting season, and last year Network Rail cleared the whole site without warning. Islington Council is opposing Network Rail and the issue will now be decided by a government planning inspector later this year.”
Network Rail officials attempted to pacify residents at a public meeting over plans to clean up and rebuild a railway embankment in Highbury last Thursday.
Dozens of residents from St Paul’s Road turned up at Highbury Grove to discuss removing debris and “re-profiling” the embankment. Officials from the company explained they urgently needed to remove years of fly tipping and rebuild the railway embankment which might affect up to 25 homes.
The railway company’s programme manager Toby Meadows said the work needed to start probably next week and would take about seven weeks, in time for the Olympics. “We don’t want to remove trees and, where possible, we hope there will be no need to disturb people’s gardens,” he said.
Mr Meadows agreed that he would call another meeting if invasive work on gardens needed to be done once the fly tipping was removed.
Resident Amina Patel said the majority of those at the meeting wanted to see a purpose-built retaining wall built between the railway and the gardens – instead of merely rebuilding the embankment, a cheaper option. “It would secure the embankment and secure the foundations of the houses. It would also mean no disruption to the gardens,” she said.
Emma Dixon, from Islington Green Party, told the Tribune after the meeting: “One positive thing that emerged is that Network Rail have not yet taken a final decision as to whether this reprofiling work will be necessary.
Pressure from those of us who attended the meeting led to a concession by the company that there will be a further consultation with residents before a final decision is taken.”
Highbury East ward Liberal Democrat councillor John Gilbert said: “The Drayton Park sidings have clear wildlife value and connect with other nearby nature conservation sites in Highbury.”