Hampstead Heath neighbours 'bereft' after Network Rail tree 'massacre'

A handful of trees still standing on the Overground near Hampstead Heath

Residents were upset to see many trees lining the Overground between Hampstead Heath and Gospel Oak had been cut down. - Credit: Joshua Thurston

Residents backing onto the overground line between Hampstead Heath and Gospel Oak are in uproar over Network Rail works which have seen established trees cut down. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, contractors began extensive work on the stretch of the line which backs on to Constantine Road 

One neighbour, Ellie Roche, told this newspaper she and her family were devastated to discover what was going on. 

"They did this massive thing and have massacred these trees," she said. "Everyone feels bereft and there's nothing we can do. The trees were full of nesting birds."

Before and after trees were felled along the Overground by Hampstead Heath station.

Before and after trees were felled along the Overground by Hampstead Heath station. - Credit: Ellie Roche

Roy Langmaid, who also lives in Constantine Road, said some of the trees had been "almost companions" for thirty years. 


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He told this newspaper: "This has been a clear-out of the trees.

"Local residents are being left with the sad results of this, without any consultation. They sent a letter which talked of 'vegetation management' in this mild way, as though they'd be doing the minimum possible. That's clearly not what they've done."

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Another resident, Julie Louvrier, said she asked Network Rail to explain its rationale for the tree works, and specifically whether or not the trees along the route had caused accidents in recent years.

Julie added: "People need to remind Network Rail they have duties over this land, not only rights."

In a letter sent to people living in Constantine Road in December, Network Rail explained there would be "some maintenance work near your property over the coming months". 

The letter continues: "This work will involve essential vegetation management and will help keep the railway running safety and reliably. "

Network Rail are in the process of clearing foliage, bushes and trees from the Overground line near Hampstead Heath.

Network Rail are in the process of clearing foliage, bushes and trees from the Overground line near Hampstead Heath. - Credit: Joshua Thurston

It states foliage, bushes and trees would be cleared "up to 10m from the nearest rail", and that "we may also need to remove any trees that we discover are dead, diseased or dying". 

The letter stated Network Rail and its contractor were "very aware of the impact that removing trees and vegetation can have on local communities", and that an environmental survey would be carried out to identify any protected species or nesting birds in the area.

The letter, from a "community relations manager", also states some woodland would "likely" be left behind to create safe habitats for wildlife.

Network Rail contractors cut trees along the Overground line near Hampstead Heath.

Network Rail contractors cut trees along the Overground line near Hampstead Heath. - Credit: Joshua Thurston

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We’re very aware of the impact that removing trees and vegetation can have on local communities and we understand that this can come as a surprise for people who’ve got used to rows of trees or hedges near their homes or workplaces. 

“Managing trees and vegetation is important to the safety of passengers and all of those involved in the running of services and maintenance of the tracks. Trees and vegetation can obscure signals, touch live electrical equipment, blow or fall onto the tracks, undermine track foundations, or prevent our track staff having a safe place to wait while trains pass.

"This work also helps reduce leaves falling onto the line, which can affect train acceleration and braking, delaying trains during the autumn months and increasing the risk of an accident happening."

They said Network Rail is investigating the concerns raised. 

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