Bare slopes and a large green metal fence can be seen by a railway line in Witley after trees were stripped away by Network Rail.

Witley Parish Council is fighting against Network Rail’s decision to clear trees on both sides of the railway line near the station, calling it “wanton devastation”.

But a spokesman for Network Rail explained the trees were removed as they were found to be “contributing to the destabilisation of the slope and putting the railway at risk”.

He added the green fence was put up to protect cars from crashing onto the railway line as a result of the removal of the trees.

Residents’ objections to the work, which started in February, come as Network Rail’s tree felling programme in England and Wales is reviewed by the Department for Transport .

 

In May, transport minister Jo Johnson announced the government’s review and told the company to suspend all felling “except where it is safety critical” during the nesting season, which is up to the end of August.

petition calling for Network Rail to stop chopping down “millions” of trees has also gained more than 100,000 signatures.

Chairman of Witley Parish Council, Gillian McCalden, said: “We have two major concerns – first, the wanton destruction of mature trees and second, the lack of consultation with the parish council.

“There is nothing anyone can do to bring back the trees that have been cut down, but we urge Network Rail to engage with the parish council and share its plans for future work.

“We understand that a review of Network Rail’s vegetation management is currently being carried out and we very much hope that more appropriate processes can be agreed.”

In a letter to transport minister Mr Johnson on July 6, Witley Parish Council said although residents were alerted in advance by notices fixed to a fence in August 2017, “the total devastation came as a complete shock”.

It wrote that as a result of the loss of trees, the noise from trains has increased “significantly”, and in June or July, the rail company installed an “ugly eight-foot high green metal fence” at the top of a bare slope.

Members of Witley Parish Council and local residents are unhappy about Network Rail stripping away trees from the railway track (Image: Grahame Larter)

The letter read: “Whilst we understand the need for Network Rail to prevent leaves and trees falling on the railway line, we challenge the need for the total clearance of all the trees so far back from the track.

“It seems very unlikely that there are no plans to continue the destruction, given that the tree felling stopped in a bizarre straight line about 200m from the station.”

A Network Rail spokesman responded: “Safety of the railway is our number one priority – vegetation was removed from Wormley Cutting after geo-technic specialists found it was contributing to the destabilisation of the slope and putting the railway at risk.”

He clarified that a letter explaining the work to clear all vegetation was delivered to neighbouring properties and fixed to a fence in August last year.

He added Network Rail would closely monitor the slope for any movement and work may take place over the coming years.

Trees will not be allowed to re-grow. Instead, the slopes will be re-established with grass, according to the company.

The green fence, which Witley Parish Council claims is unattractive, as seen from the roadside (Image: Grahame Larter)

Transport minister Mr Johnson said in May as he announced the government’s review: “It is right that Network Rail are able to remove trees that could be dangerous, or impact on the reliability of services. In the last year, vegetation management and related incidents have cost the railway £100 million.

“But I also understand that cutting back trees can alarm people who enjoy these environments — and can especially raise concerns over the effect on birds during nesting season.”

The review is expected to report back to the Department for Transport by early autumn.