GRANGE PARK PLANTING PROPOSAL
Enfield Council’s Environment, Parks & Leisure Scrutiny Panel, is one of seven panels which meets at the Civic Centre periodically, to enable the public to engage with council officers and councillors, on issues related to the local environment. At the meeting held this week on March 1st, the agenda included the tree clearance at Grange Park; DIY Streets – an innovative community project developed by Sustrans; bio fuels & wood boilers; and working groups on allotments and cemeteries. Chaired by Bowes Councillor Alan Sitkin, it was the first item on the agenda that filled the room – Network Rail’s replanting proposals for Grange Park.
From the outset, the Chair made it clear that the agenda item was the replanting, not how we had arrived at the need for the replanting; although some of us recalled from the earlier meeting being promised the answer to the number of trees Network Rail have removed from the site.
Certainly the Network Rail team were more prepared this time, fielding their National Community Manager, as well as their project manager Chris McDaid and Neil Strong, Network Rail’s Chief Arborologist. The team presented Network Rail’s proposed plans for replanting the site, which has admittedly moved on from the initial suggestions of grass and wild flowers. .
The slide below shows proposed planting of the Eastern embankment, albeit after the vegetation has had 20 years to mature! Perhaps a slightly misleading image to present.
Apologies for the blurred image, you can view the complete presentation here
In summary, the proposal focuses on replanting a boundary hedge of low growing shrubs, such as hawthorn, dogwood, blackthorn and holly along the embankments and boundaries bordering Green Dragon Lane and The Grangeway. Residents in Merridene, Deepdene and Nestor, bordering the site will be offered a choice of standard trees along their boundaries.
The flat area overlooking Green Dragon Lane will be planted with fruit trees, apples, cherries, plums and pears. The original topsoil will be returned and trees and shrubs sourced from local suppliers. Enfield Council's tree department will assist with the management in the early years, whilst the saplings become established.
Here is the list of proposed species, although in a subsequent conversation with Chris McDaid he has insisted that these are just proposals, based on the species available to them.
Sounds good? Then why did local residents come away from the meeting feeling that something was missing?
It is a start, but firstly, as voiced by local resident Christine North, this felt like a fait accompli, when we had been promised full consultation with local residents on the planting, not a rubber stamping of a municipal planting scheme, with serried rows of shrubs, planted 30cm apart.
Secondly, we are talking about saplings, and whilst there will be some ‘standards’ to use the arborial jargon, it will be several years before the planting looks greatly different from a newly planted motorway embankment.
Thirdly, where are the mature oaks that used to reside on this site in this planting scheme? Not to be replanted because they sap too much moisture from the soil, according to Network Rail. Yet our own local tree specialists suggest that the main reason is likely to be the cost of replacement oak trees.
WHAT NEXT? NETWORK RAIL WE WANT:
1. A full consultation with local residents to plan the planting in recognition of the extent of damage you have inflicted on Grange Park.
2. We still want to know that you undertook a full environmental evaluation of the site before the work began, so you can tell us the number and variety of the species you have removed and give us a categorical assurance that you have not destroyed bat habitats – as this is a criminal offence.
3. An understanding of why such a large area was cleared, when Network Rail gave an assurance in 2003, when Mr Strong first devised its vegetation programme, that vegetation clearance would be limited to fifteen feet from the rail track, somebody please lend Mr Stone a tape measure.
4. An assurance that the work they have undertaken has not created more problems than it solves. We have received advice from several soil engineers that such wholesale vegetation clearance can actually lead to destabilisation.
To quote a local expert in soil mechanics
“ I am becoming more and more convinced that far from stabilising the embankment the works will make it more unstable. The original clay embankment will now be blanketed in a more gently sloping granular fill that will prevent any reestablishment of root systems within the clay. As the roots of the felled trees and shrubs decay they will leave passages into the embankment for moisture to enter. Over a number of years this accumulation of moisture will cause the embankment to soften and swell. I can foresee the situation in five or 10 years time when more extensive works will be required to restabilise the embankment.
This phenomena is well-known when dealing with foundation subsidence of buildings with shallow foundations on London Clay. If the trees and shrubs causing the subsidence are removed during underpinning then the clay swells and the heave causes further damage to the building. The most successful results are when the trees are trimmed and/or topped to reduce moisture demand. Complete removal of trees and shrubs is invariably a disaster”.
Our local expert, who would prefer not to be named, cites a leading academic textbook, Foundation Design and Construction by M. J. Tomlinson. To quote “when trees and vegetation are cleared from a site, swelling of the desiccated clay can continue for a very long period of years, until the moisture content reaches equilibrium with the surrounding ground. Samuels and Cheney observed swelling of London Clay continuing over a period of twenty years after cutting down mature trees”.
5. An assurance that there will be no further destruction of the vegetation to the north of Grange Park Station and to the South and that local residents are FULLY consulted prior to the start of any further work.
6. Whilst the main focus is on the damage in Grange Park, we beleive that there should also be an undertaking that replanting will also be undertaken on the Winchmore Hill embankment.
Finally, this article, from the Times, published in 2003, shows that Neil Strong’s policy of vegetation clearance has been going on for nearly a decade.
Why, of why are they allowed to get away with it?
Feedback from people who attended the meeting wasn't very positive, Network Rail and Enfield Council please note e have a long way to go yet.
WHAT YOU HAVE HAD TO SAY
"Recently, family matters have kept me in the North East. On my return to London, I was horrified to see the railway embankment. It looked as if a bomb had fallen on the area in my absence, totally destroying the beautiful mature woodland that for over 30 years had given us so much pleasure. There was now a bare gash in the landscape and a scarred mound on which the railway runs.
I learnt from my neighbour that an extremely well attended meeting took place on 11th Feb - so a huge thankmyou to all involved. I attended the Environment, Parks & Scrutiny committee meeting last night and, though pleased that Network Rail has at least proposed some replanting, I continue to feel despair. The lost oak and sycamore not to be replaced at all? 3-4000 knee high hedging plants and the planting of 100 x 2m saplings, whose initial growth will be slow, will in no way restore this site. Such planting will not serve as an acoustic barrier. The increased noise (loud clanking during last night) has already been very evident"
I continue to be concerned about the possible increase of freight trains, high speed trains and noise on the line and the effect of heavy rain on the muddy area- could we now be at risk of flash floods / mud slides/ subsidence?
We need restoration of this site through the planting of well-developed, deciduous, native trees and an honest response as to the findings of the ecological survey.
"I have to say that I was very disappointed by yesterday's meeting at the Civic Centre, it really did seem like a stitch-up concocted between Enfield Council and Network Rail.
During the PowerPoint presentation, I got the distinct impression that the NR "Arborologist" was talking about "trees" measuring up to three metres - when he sat down, they suddenly seemed to have morphed into trees between five and seven metres?
There was limited opportunity to ask questions and I would dearly love to have found out why the trees between Green Dragon Lane and the Grangeway were such a problem but those on either side of the Grange Park Station appear not to be . . . to date!
"I thought the Chairman, Cllr. Sitkin played the meeting into NR's hands by stating many times that we were only attending to review the replanting proposed by NR which clearly may show some sign of life when we're all dead and buried ( not on the embankment I hope ! ). A small meeting with NR and a few selected residents would be a much more useful forum to discuss a replanting programme to include some mature trees especially on resident's boundaries where required. This meeting may happen as it was requested at the meeting. I'm not sure who will follow up.
NR's first slide contained an explicit statement that they held a site meeting with the Council in October 2010 including the Council's tree guru where I assume NR explained the chain-saw massacre proposal. Nobody flickered an eyelid at this statement but then again recrimination had already been outlawed by the Chairman - very convenient"
"Can we add a clear demand that large trees such as oaks, birches and sycamores will be replanted in significant numbers in Grange Park, not just shrubs?
Also, as a resident of Winchmore Hill, I am keen for two things to happen:
1.) No more trees should be removed in Winchmore Hill, whether on Hoppers Lane or elsewhere. My home on Hoodcote Gardens backs onto the embankment, and we are partially shielded from passing trains by the small woodland behind our fence. We have foxes and squirrels in those woodlands, as well as mice, and the birds love the trees.
2.) Trees should be replanted in Winchmore Hill where they have been removed. The beauty of our natural surroundings has been diminished by their removal, not to speak of the environmental damage this has caused.