CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Network Rail ‘butchers’ cherry blossom tree in midnight work

Flowers left in tribute to tree on bridge

27 September, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Michelle Fiers at the tree in Gloucester Avenue

FLOWERS have been laid at the stump of a cherished cherry blossom tree after it was chainsawed at midnight over the weekend.

The white blossoming tree, at the junction of Gloucester Avenue and Oval Road, Camden Town, was “removed” on Network Rail orders. Its roots are damaging a railway tunnel below but dozens of residents have complained about the “vandalism of the community”.

A card taped next to a roses bouquet, stapled to the tree, said “I am so sorry we didn’t fight enough to save you”, while a note added: “Smells like HS2.”

Michelle Fiers, who lives nearby, said: “We point the finger at Brazil for its lack of action against the devastation of the rain forest, but are we any wiser for letting HS2 and Network Rail destroy our trees with such abandon? “\Today residents of Camden and Primrose Hill are left with many questions and very few answers, a stump with sympathy flowers is left where once stood a magnificent, blooming blossom.”

Pigeons that are often seen feasting on fallen berries at the tree each day were wandering pecking the pavement and looking perplexed.

Ms Fiers said they were “completely disoriented – it’s heartbreaking”, adding: “This majestic tree stood proud, a home and protector to many birds but especially a refuge to pigeons. It made our area leafy but also played a huge part in protecting us from the noise of the railway and the ever-deteriorating air quality. It reminded us every year of the arrival of spring with its spectacular white blossom that hung heavy.”

Railway operator Network Rail is carrying out maintenance to its railway line going into Euston where HS2 is constructing a new station.

Nick Conner, who lives in Gloucester Avenue, said: “My wife and I were woken up at midnight on Saturday by a team of men with chainsaws cutting down the locally beloved white blossom tree. “I do have to question why they chose midnight to cut it down – I suspect it was to avoid local protest during climate week for their senseless vandalism of our community.”

The tree before its meeting with the chainsaw

Network Rail said it was “legally obliged” to carry out work in the night and on the weekend so as not to disrupt commuter journeys.

In a letter sent to residents, Simon Pugh, community relationship manager at Network Rail, said the “improvement works” were necessary because the tree was “damaging the railway tunnel at Gloucester Avenue, Camden Town”, adding: “The equipment we will use includes chainsaws and hedge trimmers. I do hope our work doesn’t disturb you too much. We understand that working by your property overnight is far from ideal, but we are legally obliged to work on the railway at times that cause least disruption to trains.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “While we appreciate that the trees are admired by residents where Gloucester Avenue meet Oval Road, they have to be removed because their roots have caused serious structural damage to our railway tunnel below.

“As any with work in a conservation area, we applied for all the necessary permissions from Camden Council. We also wrote to residents to inform them of our overnight work. As one of Britain’s largest landowners, we constantly balance the needs of the environment and our neighbours with the needs and safety of the 4.6m people who use the railway every day.”

More late-night works at the junction are scheduled for the following four weekends.

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