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Wirral residents slam Network Rail's 'gesture of goodwill' in tree-felling row
A Network Rail “gesture of goodwill” following the felling of trackside trees at Eastham Rake has been slammed by local residents for falling “way short” of an acceptable solution.
Spokesman Phil Woolland commented: “We feel we are just a small voice fighting the juggernaut of Network Rail who seem able to steamroller over the concerns of the railway network’s residents.”
An approved landscaping scheme was included as part of the planning consent for the controversially located Eastham Rake station in 1993.
A landscape drawing at the time indicated that the planting should include a mix of Italian alder, silver bitch, aspen and other species.
The railway authority planted a row of leylandii conifers to provide screening for adjacent homes. Recently they advised residents that they intended to cut down the conifers.
Following a local outcry Network Rail invited residents to a site meeting where they pledged not to fell the trees but to lop them instead.
Phil whose home is involved, said: “Despite their assurances the majority of the trees were felled; some have since been lopped at platform level and many other lower shrubs have also been felled for contractor’s plant access purposes, leaving the site extremely exposed.”
Phil acknowledged that while the leylandii were “not the most attractive thing” they had provided screening from noise and the “ugly” station structure.
Residents also insist that Network Rail had been in breach of planning conditions stipulating that “all planting shall be maintained,”
Said Phil: “The planting that was actually carried out bore little resemblance to the approved scheme. “ In a letter to Network Rail he wrote: “We are confident that several breaches of (planning) condition four have occurred, most recently with the felling of the trees (albeit the wrong species) that provided the screen; and that your offer to plant an unspecified number of laurels as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ falls way short of being an acceptable solution to the situation.”
He advised the railway operators that legal advice on the interpretation of condition four indicated that “it was clearly intended to provide a tree screen which should be retained and maintained on the site in perpetuity.”
Network Rail accepted that condition four of planning consent stated that should any planted tree die, be removed of become diseased or damaged it should be replaced in the next planting season.
But spokeswoman Sarah McArdle observed: “The condition referred to is applicable for up to five years after the decision date of September 17 1993.
“Due to the length of time now elapsed (19 years) there is no requirement or obligation for the trees to be replaced.
“While this may be the case it is accepted the trees being removed will have a visual impact. Therefore it is out intention to replant as a ‘goodwill’ gesture.
“Our proposal is to plant semi-mature laurel trees (approx 8-10ft tall).”
She said Network Rail would be happy to review the site on completion of the planting.