Members of the Grange Park Residents Replanting Committee met with Network Rail and Council officers on Tuesday to finalise the replanting of the embankment site.
The site has greened up over the past couple of months since the construction work finished, no these are not weeds you see before you, the site has been seeded with a grass and wild flower mix by Network Rail! We are also starting to see some self seeded shrubs and plants on the site.
The meeting went through in detail the replanting plans put forward by Network Rail and discussion on the size and location of the trees and hedging formed the main part of the meeting. Concerns were raised that the desired sight screen and acoustic screen would not be achieved for many years. There are major constraints as to what can be planted and where, as a result of the material used to construct the embankment and sadly residents living in Deepdene, Merridene and Nestor Avenue will continue to an uninterrupted view of passing trains for decades to come.
There is very little that the Committee, other local residents and the Council can do at this stage, as the primary concern is that the replanting begins as soon as possible, so it was important not to impede the replanting programme. It is vital to restore cover for wildlife as quickly as possible, as railway lines are designated wildlife corridors. However, the Network Rail team comprising Nigel Lea, Project Manager and Neil Strong, Network Rail's tree specialist have agreed to reconvene in a year, to review the site. It may be possible to add further shrubs and trees at a later date, subject to how the site was developing.
Concerns were raised regarding the aftercare of the trees and hedging plants once they are planted, especially the need for watering in the critical first year after planting. Network Rail is not proposing a watering programme, so it was suggested that water retention crystals are used when planting. Almost certainly some plants will not survive but Network Rail's contractors will provide a 2/3 year aftercare programme and will replace plants where necessary.
Network Rail is proposing to plant trees along part of the Merridene boundary, however concerns have been raised by a resident that they will result in loss of light to their gardens, without serving any useful purpose in shielding the railway line. Residents are now being consulted as to whether this planting should progress.
It is planned that part of the South East corner of the site can be planted with bulbs, possibly by local children, although this will not happen until the main area of the site has been planted.
Hollies and mixed hedging plants will be planted along Green Dragon Lane and the palisade fencing will be painted green, so that the area looks less like a derelict industrial site in the heart of a conservation area.
Network Rail will proceed with the ordering of the required stock, which will take approximately 3 weeks to acquire, so planting should take place at the end of October. The Network Rail team has agreed to provide the detailed planting schedule once it becomes available.
Confirmation was provided that no further tree removal was planned for the site as a whole, confirmation was also given that Network Rail had acknowledged to Enfield Council that no further works of a similar nature were required within the area.
Overall, what is being proposed is a major compromise, with budget and planting limitations, which will continue to blight the lives of many local residents. We are a long way from having the restoration of a natural wildlife habitat. Nevertheless, it is a starting point and perhaps further lobbying will be required, for the moment, we will just have to wait and see and let nature take its course.