St Paul’s Road neighbours Michael Graham, Amina Patel and Jill Bryson
Published: 18 May, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
NETWORK Rail is accused this week of threatening to rip up entire swathes of back gardens at up to 25 homes in Canonbury as part of a plan to strengthen an embankment.
Residents in St Paul’s Road will lose trees, vegetation and rare bird habitats, and in many cases wide stretches of their gardens, for the development, which is in a “green corridor”, an area designated a site of nature conservation importance.
Network Rail plans to shore up the embankment and build a security fence along a stretch of track between Highbury Grove Bridge and Canonbury station, on the Richmond to Stratford Overground line.
The company is to “re-profile” the embankment, which will mean taking away land from at least 20 to 25 gardens.
Many of the gardens are owned by Network Rail and residents pay rent for the space.
A public meeting organised by Network Rail is being held at Highbury Grove School at 6pm on Thursday.
Islington Council is expected to formally object to the scheme on the grounds that the loss of gardens will have a detrimental effect on residents.
Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn is asking the rail company to investigate less invasive ways of strengthening the embankment.
Michael Graham, who drives tour buses for groups such as the Rolling Stones and Status Quo, has lived in the road for almost 30 years.
He pays £60 a year rent to Network Rail for his garden, but stands to lose a large area which has been carefully nurtured.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time and effort cultivating our garden,” he said.
“We face heavy traffic at the front of our house and, of course, there is the noise of the trains.
"The garden, which looks onto the line, is our bit of serenity.”
Residents maintain the embankment could have been strengthened without disruption to residents two years ago when work began on the new Highbury and Islington to Crystal Palace line.
Mr Graham’s wife, Amina Patel, a teacher at Kingsway College, said: “It’s not just the loss of our garden, it’s an entire green corridor under threat.”
Professional artist Jill Bryson fears she could lose a wide stretch of her garden.
“We’ve spent years caring for it,” she said. “But all we’ll be left with is a path if we are lucky.”
Labour councillor Kate Groucutt said: “I understand that private owners have individual garden leases with Network Rail and that these were changed last year.
“Unfortunately, if Network Rail is the owner of the land and has gone through the correct process to reclaim possession then there may be little we can do to stop it. But we can certainly try to reduce the amount of garden lost.”
Nick Gray, community relations manager with the rail company, said the problem was caused by the build-up of fly-tipping.
“This has created a high risk for potential bank slippage, which threatens the operation of the railway,” he added.
The work could begin as soon as next month and could take about four weeks.
Workmen will use an access point at Harecourt Road.