COMMUNITY leaders in Dronfield have mounted a campaign against a rail company's "scorched earth" approach to clearing trees alongside train tracks.
Dronfield Civic Society said Network Rail had created a "wasteland" by felling hundreds of trees and stripping vegetation near the main Sheffield to London line running through the centre of the town.
They claimed the process has changed the town's landscape, destroyed vegetation and wildlife habitats and exposed residents to noise and pollution.
Network Rail said there was no alternative to carrying out the work, which was done for safety reasons.
The company denied suggestions the vegetation was slashed back more than neccessary to avoid it having to paying for maintenance work.
Objectors have called on North East District Council to step in to prevent similar destruction in the future.
Resident Ralph Tatt, whose house overlooks the line, said: "The aggressive and destructive work carried out by Network Rail is staggering.
"It has had a dramatic impact on noise and wildlife and is extremely damaging to the town's character. Many townspeople are very angry."
Dronfield Civic Society chairman John Harvey said: "We believe Network Rail's approach to this work has been totally inconsiderate.
"Although they notified the North East Derbyshire District Council conservation officer and some residents that some work was to take place, they by no means defined the extent of the work, nor considered the impact it would have on the town and its residents.
"By using the phrase 'operational reasons' in their notification, no-one has the right to challenge the work, nor do they define what the reasons for such widespread destruction are and how it affects their operations, other than citing 'safety'."
The society says it will monitor further work to take place near Dronfield station.
A Network Rail spokesman said: "We understand the concerns of local people about the removal of vegetation at Dronfield and apologise for any inconvenience caused to them. However, this was a safety issue for us and, as such, alternative action was not an option.
"There are several reasons we undertake vegetation management on the rail network. These include making sure that train drivers are able to see signals clearly and that there is safe refuge at the trackside for our people.
"At Dronfield there were also reports from train drivers that were having difficulty breaking because of fallen leaves which had become impacted on the line. This is potentially very serious and, following site visits and investigations, the removal of trees was undertaken."
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