RESIDENTS and community representatives in Dronfield protested this week over a “scorched earth” approach to clearing trees alongside train tracks.
They said Network Rail had created a wasteland by felling hundreds of trees and stripping vegetation near the main Sheffield to London line running through the centre of the town.
In the process the whole landscape had been changed, vegetation and wildlife habitat had been destroyed and residents had been exposed to noise and pollution, said residents and the town’s Civic Society.
Network Rail said there was no alternative to carrying out the work, which was for safety reasons.
The company vehemently denied residents’ suggestions that the comprehensive clearance was to save money – so it does not have to return to the site for many years.
Objectors accuse it of adopting a “scorched earth” policy and are calling on North East District Council and local MP to step in to “prevent similar destruction in future”.
Resident Ralph Tatt, whose house overlooks the line, said: “The aggressive and destructive work carried out by Network Rail is staggering.
“It has had a dramatic impact on noise and wildlife and is extremely damaging to the town’s character. Many townspeople are very angry over this.”
John Harvey, who chairs Dronfield Civic Society, said: “We believe Network Rail’s approach to this work has been totally inconsiderate to their so-called “railway neighbours”.
“Although they notified the local North East Derbyshire District Council conservation officer and some residents that some work was to take place, they by no means defined the extent of the work, nor considered the impact it would have on the town and its residents.”
Mr Harvey added: “By using the phrase ‘operational reasons’ in their notification, no-one has the right to challenge the work, nor do they define what the reasons for such widespread destruction are and how it affects their operations, other than citing ‘safety’.”
The society says it will monitor further work when Network Rail returns to the area around Dronfield station, “although the damage has been done”.
A company spokesman said: “We understand the concerns of local people about the removal of vegetation at Dronfield and apologise for any inconvenience caused to them. However, this was a safety issue for us and, as such, alternative action was not an option.
“There are several reasons we undertake vegetation management on the rail network. These include making sure that train drivers are able to see signals clearly and that there is safe refuge at the trackside for our people.
“At Dronfield there were also reports from train drivers that were having difficulty breaking because of fallen leaves which had become impacted on the line.
“This is potentially very serious and, following site visits and investigations, the removal of trees was undertaken.”