DEC 2013:

(above) Network Rail's mindless destruction of healthy trees forty feet from the railway.

On Wed 27th November, I was walking along the road to the allotments here in Saltburn when I discovered a crew of tree surgeons busy with chainsaws along the railway siding. They were from Railscape contracted to Network Rail. I asked them what was going on and they told me IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that they had been instructed to chop down ALL the trees from opposite the caravan park - all the way to the cattle arch (approx 300 yards). I asked them why and they said they were just following orders. These trees are relatively young ranging between 15 and 40 years old but nonetheless all provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Its not rocket science, less trees equals less wildlife, birds, insects etc. and trees look a lot better than just a steel mesh fence! Some of the trees were planted by British Rail decades ago because the original stakes were still beside them. They posed no danger at all being 40 feet away from the tracks. I rushed home and called Network Rail's hotline and also the Council's Planning Dept in the hope of getting a preservation order instated. Saltburn councillors Smith and Thomson also contacted the planning dept and more complaints from the public followed. By the end of the day I counted 8 chopped down.

The contractors were due to return the next day but they didn't show. The job had been stopped. Representatives from the Planning Dept. and Network Rail made a site visit and I took the Evening Gazette down there too. The Planning Dept later informed me that none of the trees would be saved as they were "not of sufficient amenity value". Whatever that meant I'm sure the wildlife would disagree. The trees were all coming down.

But the contractors didn't return until a week later and after the story had been in the Evening Gazette (article-and-video). I got straight down there to film it all and to my amazement I was told by the contractor that there had been a sudden change of plan. The trees were no longer coming down but being trimmed back apart from the biggest one, a 40-year old Sycamore. I asked why that was still being felled and he said he didn't know. I asked him if it was diseased or dangerous and he said it wasn't.

I began filming this beautiful tree being butchered. The chainsaws cut through its limbs like butter. It's branches were fed into a machine and spat out like peanuts. If us mere mortals did it we'd be prosecuted...

Suddenly the contractors' manager was on the phone telling them that I had no permission to film. I told them that I didn't need permission as I was on public land and I carried on. Shortly after, British Transport Police arrived following a complaint that I was "being abusive and threatening" to the contractors. WHAT LIES! The Police Officer spoke to the contractors who knew nothing of the allegations made against me, obviously made by someone higher up the chain of command. I informed the Officer of the facts and he happily left though he must have thought what a wasted journey it had been following the bogus call...

Shortly after, a Network Rail manager, Tom Brand, turned up. He told me that the contractors had got it all wrong. He claimed they were only ever felling two or three trees that were a danger and trimming the rest back. When I asked him why the big Sycamore was being felled, he said that the base was hollow and diseased and had to come down. I was unconvinced. The contractors said it was of no danger and healthy. Had they got it all wrong? Or was this Network Rail saving face in the wake of bad local press following bad national press when the RSPB criticised them heavily for habitat destruction last year? (BBCNews). Why were lies told to the police about me being "abusive and threatening"? And why did the stump of the "diseased and hollow" Sycamore, felled the next day, indeed prove to be perfectly healthy?!
I think it is safe to say that all the trees, around 30-40, would have come down in no time had the whistle not been blown. I believe Network Rail's plan was to cut them all down as a money saving measure to avoid coming back to trim them in the future. But they didn't get away with it! 10 lost but 30 saved - RESULT! Thanks to all those who also made their voices heard.
Craig Hornby - Saltburn Resident & RSPB Member.
(above) ALL SAVED !
(above) 'hollow and diseased' said Network Rail - but it was clearly healthy!


Oxford def: Vandalism
'An action involving deliberate mindless destruction or damage to public or private property'


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