RESIDENTS in Witley are up in arms after claims of ‘total devastation’ caused by tree clearance and destruction of wild life habitat by Network Rail.

The claims that hundreds of healthy trees felled from the railway cutting just outside Witley Station, earlier this year, has visually damaged the wooded area and increased noise from the trains on the busy commuter rail line from Portsmouth to Waterloo

The installation of an ‘ugly’ eight-foot high metal fence creating a barrier at the top of a slope has also caused an outrage.

The work, claim the residents, came as a ‘complete shock’ and they say they have been met with a wall of silence over the issue in their efforts to raise the matter with Network Rail.

Now Witley Parish Council has written to Joseph Johnson, the Minister of State for the Department of Transport, to voice their anger over the issue and question its motives.

The letter stated that in February the rail owners “removed hundreds of healthy trees, leaving bare slopes of both sides of the line.”

Although residents had been told when the work would start, the letter says the ‘the total devastation came as a complete shock’.

The metal fence installed at the top of the slope to “stop cars crashing through the existing wire netting fence and ending up on the line was a job that was done perfectly well by the trees”, the parish council claimed in its letter.

Worried the path of destruction is not over – given the tree-felling stopped in a bizarre straight line about 200 yards from the station – the letter goes on: “We understand the need for Network Rail to prevent leaves and trees falling on the railway line. We challenge the need for the total clearance of all the trees so far back from the track.”

The parish council questioned why Network Rail was allowed to carry out work like that without consultation with neighbours and the local parish council, and claimed “no other organisation had carte blanche to carry out work which impacts on the area so significantly.”

It also asked why it was not required to replace the ‘millions of trees’ it had cut down, in an alternative location and whether there were any plans to plant new vegetation on the slopes to ‘stop the danger of soil erosion and landslides’.

The letter concluded by asking whether alternative vegetation management strategies, such as pollarding or hedging, have been considered for future work.