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Network Rail sorry after workers destroy trackside community garden in Highbury

PUBLISHED: 10:26 27 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:31 27 December 2017

This sign did not work. Picture: Neville Cowton

This sign did not work. Picture: Neville Cowton

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Rail bosses have apologised after work near the Highbury railway line led to the destruction of an award-winning community garden.

Corsica Gardens was trampled by Network Rail workers. Picture: Neville CowtonCorsica Gardens was trampled by Network Rail workers. Picture: Neville Cowton

The damage came after neighbours had repeatedly asked for workers to be warned about protecting the Corsica Street garden, which is on the bridge above the Canonbury Tunnel.

After multiple requests, Network Rail agreed to include a sign reminding workers to be careful to avoid damaging the area. But on Wednesday morning, it was found severely damaged, with trellises ripped off and plants trampled on.

Islington councillors and members of the public were furious, with some declaring the work an act of “vandalism”.

Cynthia Locke, has won awards for her work maintaining the garden, which she has done for more than 20 years with occasional help from her partner Neville Cowton.

Cynthia Locke, centre, receiving an Islington in Bloom award for the garden back in 2013. Picture: Dieter PerryCynthia Locke, centre, receiving an Islington in Bloom award for the garden back in 2013. Picture: Dieter Perry

Neville, who has since made an official complaint to Network Rail, said: “Cynthia was mortified. There’s no need to do that. They have an obligation to clear trees affecting the line but this is on the other side of the bridge. It’s just vandalism.

“Cynthia is down there every weekend. We can’t see it from our house, it’s purely for the benefit of the community. And some of those plants are quite costly.”

Highbury East’s Cllr Osh Gantly said: “While we appreciate the track must be maintained, that’s not an excuse for wanton destruction of our very scarce and much-loved green spaces.”

Islington’s council leader Richard Watts also spoke out against the work, expressing disappointment at the damage to the garden, which has been worked on for 20 years by locals

In a statement, a Network Rail spokeswoman said: “Firstly, we’d like to apologise for the damage done to the community garden on Corsica Street over the weekend.

“This is unacceptable and we wholeheartedly apologise for the impact that this has had.”

She said workers had to go through the garden “due to difficult access at the site”.

“Early in the New Year, Network Rail will carry out work to rectify the damage and will arrange a meeting with the local community to discuss how we can best do this,” she added.

“We will also look for ways we can better access the site in the future and reduce the risk of damage to the garden.”

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