Green campaigner Emma Dixon, third from left, and Cllr Richard Greening, far right, with protesters
Published: 15 June, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
THE alleged “wanton destruction” of protected bird habitats on railway embankments in Islington brought pleas for prosecution and a call by MP Jeremy Corbyn for government action this week.
Network Rail is accused of destroying acres of trees, including many mature varieties, along railway embankments in Highbury despite huge protests from residents.
Demonstrations took place on Tuesday close to Drayton Park station, where much of the work has taken place, and on Wednesday outside Network Rail’s King’s Cross headquarters.
Mr Corbyn tabled a parliamentary motion condemning the authority for its lack of consultation and insensitive approach.
Green Party activist Emma Dixon said she was contacted by residents living close to the embankments who were “horrified” and “heartbroken” by the scale of the destruction.
The residents described how swathes of embankment trees which acted as a barrier against noise and pollution were removed by bulldozers within hours.
Ms Dixon added: “I have now reported this as a wildlife crime to the police because under the Countryside Acts you are not allowed to remove trees where birds are nesting.
“We had a meeting with Network Rail after a similar incident at Drayton Park sidings last year and they were happy then to give a clear undertaking that they would not cut down any more greenery without first consulting residents. They’ve clearly broken that promise.”
Islington Council’s Labour finance chief Councillor Richard Greening organised the protest outside the rail organisation’s headquarters at Kings Place in York Way.
Cllr Greening, the ward councillor, said he was furious at the way the company appears to be completely unaccountable. “They were still on site on Wednesday and more trees were being cut down,” he added.
He said: “They are a publicly-funded organisation but don’t have to consult anyone. They are a complete law to themselves. But they are not allowed to disturb nesting birds and June is the peak time for this activity and that’s exactly what they have done.”
He will be asking the council to ensure that police investigate the issue. “How did this organisation escape the bonfire of quangos?” he asked.
Network Rail is already in trouble over plans to rebuild the embankment in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury, which is expected to impact on back gardens. Work is due to start soon.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “It is essential we keep trees, plants and vegetation alongside the tracks under control so they do not prevent us from running a safe and efficient railway.
“It is not practical to limit this work solely to winter months, but we carry out surveys before and during any work to prevent nesting birds being disturbed. If members of the public have any concerns they should contact our helpline on 08457 11 41 41.”