Concern grows over rail-line vegetation removal as fight goes to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

tree felling harrogate line
Tree felling on the Harrogate Lane near Burley. Photo: Armley Trees

Controversial work to remove vegetation around the track between Kirkstall Viaduct and Horsforth has been brought to the attention of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps – as West Leeds campaigners speak out against the work.

Network Rail says it is carrying out ‘essential’ clearance work to maintain safety on the four-mile stretch to remove all woody vegetation/trees within 21 feet of the Harrogate Lane in a bid to keep it free from obstruction.

Beyond the 21 feet, vegetation that could hit the railway should it fall will be reduced or removed.

But local campaigners have criticised Network Rail for damaging an essential wildlife corridor and for a lack of consultation as work at the side of the tracks continues.

Photo: Armley Trees.

And Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel and councillors from Kirkstall, Armley and Headingley have this week written to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State Transport, to ask for his support in ensuring that Network Rail respects biodiversity and the climate, and liaises fully with the community.

Ms Reeves said:

“I know that many residents are worried about the impact on local wildlife and nature, along with worries about removing trees. I’ve previously been in touch with Network Rail about their plans and encouraged them to engage with local concerns.”

The letter can be read in full here:

Environmental campaigners from the Armley Trees campaign, which was originally set up over concerns about vegetation management taking place in the railway cutting in Armley, say trees have existed next to the railway in the Burley area since the 1800s and add:

“For the residents of the Ashvilles, this essential wildlife corridor is the only biodiversity near their homes — the streets having no gardens and lead onto the busy Cardigan Road to the far end.

“Some residents living living along this section of the railway have reported that they have had no notification or information that this work was to take place.”

Campaigners are calling for more meaningful engagement from Network Rail, who say they sent over 4,500 letters to line-side neighbours and say the work is essential for trains to run safely and reliably. 

West Leeds Dispatch approached Network Rail on Thursday for comment.

WLD first reported on the tree clearance in August.


  1. Will the councillors and MP now also complain about trees and debris on the line following storms? Will the councillors and MP defend Network Rail and the train operators when trains skid on leaves which have fallen onto the line causing trains to crash as at Salisbury recently?


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