Trees next to the railway line have been destroyed (Credit: Marian Gutteridge)
The railway company is reportedly clearing everything within six metres of the tracks between Upminster and Romford.
More than 500 residents in Havering have signed a petition calling for them to stop the work, describing it as “environmental destruction on a massive scale”.
Kate Bailey lives in Hornchurch and was surprised to find men knocking down oak trees at the bottom of her garden that have been there for hundreds of years.
She is worried about squirrels, foxes and birds that will be made homeless and wants the work stopped until a welfare expert has had a look.
“We have a family of squirrels living in these trees and while they were cutting them down one of the squirrels was running around the branches,” said Kate.
“I said ‘could you at least respect the squirrels and if they are on the tree don’t cut them down at that time’.”
The measures are reportedly being taken to stop trees from blocking signals or falling on the tracks. They are aimed at keeping passengers and workers safe.
But Councillor Bob Perry said Network Rail is more concerned about the financial benefits of clearing the trees.
“In my opinion it is purely a cost cutting exercise,” he said. “When I spoke the governor at Network Rail in December, his very words to me were ‘leaves on the line cause delays, delays cost money’.
“It’s not a good enough reason to be doing this. The affect on the wildlife is unthinkable, it has to stop.”
He has written to Network Rail and the Secretary of State for Environment asking them to cease the work.
Kate explained the lack of communication from Network Rail was particularly frustrating as residents have not been able to look at the ecological report responsible for the work.
“We should know what they are doing and also have a chance to question it and see the evidence and what has been laid out in the process before to allow this to happen,” she said.
Deborah Sell, of Hornchurch, said there was a consultation meeting last week but many residents were not made aware of it. Letters about the plans were reportedly sent to some local people last November.
The MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell, has backed the residents and said Network Rail should not be destroying the trees without consulting local people.
“I am calling on Network Rail to stop their desecration of the trees along the railway line in Romford and Hornchurch immediately!” he said.
“They should not be doing this. It’s shameful!”
If you would like to sign the petition, you can do so online here.
Network Rail has not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
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