Campaign update from the Tree Savers


in Urban Forest

by Penny Crowther of The Tree Savers –

When you come to believe as I do that Network Rail uses fabrication as part of its daily running of our Great British railway system, then you are halfway to understanding the situation ‘the good people of Whitstable’ find themselves in.

On the 28th of May Whitstable protested against Network Rails tree clearance policy – or should I say it’s ‘Scorched earth’ policy because believe me when I tell you thats exactly what it is.

After local residents met Network Rail for a so called public meeting we found ourselves being bamboozled with a quasi- non informational barrage of technical flim flam.

As one expert described it ‘I have never before heard such disinformation passed on – this is incredible’. He also says The Bern convention is just one of many conventions & legal instruments ELC 2006, Aarhus 1998 etc., that appear to be wholly disregarded by NR by hiding behind a private frontage as and when needed – but Bern specifically relates to Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The Tree Savers intend to make a complaint directly to the Bern Convention.

After attempting to squeeze 250 people into a hall with a capacity of around 60. Network Rail then thought it would be a pushover to talk Whitstable around to their way of thinking. What a surprise they got. If you want to see a snippet of the baffling technical presentation, take a look at a clip of our YouTube footage. Network Rail’s Simon Abbott speaks nonsensical (from this YouTube address you should find the other clips of the Whitstable public meeting):-

Needless to say Network Rail were not taken by our pleas for proper public consultation. They held no truck with the idea that their wanton disregard for our country’s wildlife corridors was totally unacceptable. With every argument we put to them they seem to have a ‘down to pat’ answer- a sort of a ‘cover all’ if you will, to dismiss any argument we put to them.

What about the slippage, heave, flooding, noise pollution, general pollution, the death of biodiversity? (see: Network Rail is starving the urban and peri-urban landscapes of the UK biodiversity and Soils & Biodiversity)

Nothing left its mark – network rail were determined to carry on regardless.

They will be continuing with the work- telling us this :-

a. That trees of a ‘significant size’ would be felled from the “top 2/3rds of the embankment”.

b. That vegetation, bushes and scrub would be taken back 5 metres from the track.

c. That some trees would be left at the toe of the embankment.

d. That tree stumps would be treated to effectively poison the roots, preventing re-growth.

If you add all this up the outcome will be the same as it has been in all the other areas affected – we will be left with absolutely nothing!

Whitstable was left with no option but to protest -please see the channel 4 footage of the day’s events on homepage.

Since our day of protest the Whitstable Group including The Tree Savers and many others have been working tirelessly to construct a way to communicate with Network Rail, at a series of public consultation meetings they promised us. The promise was given after three ladies of a certain age chained themselves to a tree. Refusing to move until Network Rail agreed to a said meetings.

‘Victory’ we cried…..NOT so, now it appears. Yesterday August 2, 2013 we had notice that Network Rail have reneged on their promises yet again.

Yet again I hear you ask. If you read the article by The Tree Savers in Save Our Woods you will become aware that Network Rail had been wantonly destroying vast amounts of woodlands in many parts of the country during the bird breeding season.

After many complaints promises were made. On 27th June, a member of the campaign group wrote directly to Network Rail’s Director of Ops, Robin Gisby, seeking assurance that he would indeed “work closely with line-side neighbours” (Gisby’s quote from the R4 ‘Today’ programme, 27th June, on which he appeared). She received a reply the next day as follows:-

“…we have learnt lessons from recent vegetation works. As a result, I would like to reassure you, and your neighbours, that we will honour our commitment to arrange a series of meetings prior to carrying out the work at the end of the bird nesting season in the autumn. These meetings will be attended by senior representatives of Network Rail who will be happy to respond to any of your concerns.”

However this turned out to be nothing more than hot air.

Please see the following link to press reports of Network Rail deliberately breaking the rules of The Wildlife and Countryside act in Islington:-


NETWORK Rail’s “massive destruction” of trees on embankments around the Emirates Stadium. You can see the tree's still standing the residents are fighting to keep in the top picture

This was followed by a short debate in Parliament as a result of Islington MP, Jeremy Corbyn, tabling an EDM, following the extensive tree clearance in Drayton Park by Network Rail which took place without notification to local residents – and within the bird breeding season. David Burrowes, MP for Grange Park, Enfield, (where another Network Rail tree clearance took place) were intervening in this debate.

Oxford : The Sheriff of Oxford has ridden in to stop Network Rail chopping down trees on the fringe of Port Meadow.

In Deal, Kent, after all the public outcry Network Rail decided to use a different tack. Uninhibited by local residents Network Rail had the perfect opportunity to carry out works along the rail-side bank between Ripple and Ringwoude, thinking nobody would notice. However by chance they had been spotted by a Whitstable resident who happened to be passing. She noticed Capel contractors hanging out of the trees wielding their saws, and contacted us immediately. The Tree Savers quickly drove down to this spot to discover Network Rail vans and chipper lining the roadside with the sound of the chainsaws screaming out into the countryside. We were told network rail had been there all week and would be returning. The R.S.P.B. told us they would not be able to intervene due to the amount of complaints against N.R. they were already dealing with – this I find interesting, as yesterday I received a letter from the Department of Transport in which it stated:- Network Rail has advised that the number of complaints its vegetation management policy has fallen… can this possibly be?

We have other reports from across the country that the R.S.P.B are looking into.

This week we have been made aware of yet another 16 week deforestation project about to be undertaken by N.R. This will be on a very large scale in the Wallsall & Cannock area.

Below is the illustration provided by N.R. of the proposed works.

A sad fact about Network Rail’s tree clearances relates to the poisoning of the roots after work is completed. Glyphosate [Round-up] is sprayed over the ground and stumps to ensure no regrowth will occur.

There are online reports that described potential threat to humans. They state that Glyphosate has now been found in human urine. Do we really need such vast quantities sprayed on vegetation so close to our homes?

Killing the roots also can cause heave or slippage. After the vegetation as been killed off the roots collapse leaving a hole where they had once been, destabilising the soil and weakening the bank.

The picture below was taken after last months torrential rain.

At this point I would like to state that The Tree Savers believe that some of the contractor’s Network Rail are using are being rewarded with the spoils. We have found evidence that some Network Rail contractors are selling wood chippings for Biomass – giving them every reason to take more trees than is necessary in order to maintain the banks – they line their pockets.

Network Rail are very fond of using the safety card, to explain why it is necessary to practice such a severe approach to bank side maintenance [we are the only country in the world who uses such a method]. We believe this to be a cost cutting measure and a face saving device: after all you can’t have leaves on the line if there aren’t any trees!

The Tree Savers and the Whitstable campaigners are in the process of producing reports that will highlight the need for using existing, excepted and successful rail side maintenance. Please watch this space for our reports coming soon.

Frankie, One of the ‘Ladies of a certain age’ would like to add :-

I would like to draw people’s attention to the scandalous fact that a situation has been created in which a publicly-funded private company already controversial in the news for paying its officials huge bonuses has been given Carte Blanche to do whatever it wants with a vast amount of land which is crucial to the whole country and whose power is untrammelled and completely beyond ministerial control – with enormous environmental implications.

Thank you Frankie, and I hope you will once again be prepared to take action as I will myself along with a growing amount of outraged people across the country. Please contact us at if you would like to offer your support.


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Antony Croft August 5, 2012 at 11:30

So the true nature of this is exposed at last! I had been keeping out of it till now as I was uncertain exactly what was going on.

I think its long overdue Network Rail was held to account and forced to give full account and at a venue that fits the size of the group that would attend.

I suspect there is not a single genuine reason this work is being carried out, it makes no sense from a soil mechanics/stable point of view, nor a carbon storage nor a wildlife nor an amenity or public health point of view.

I wouldnt mind betting with half a dozen tree experts on various tree related factors presenting at a proper meeting with NR, this action would prove this madness for what it really is. I suspect they know this and hence, the pallet/avoidance tactics.

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