Greens, residents and police in last ditch bid to save Islington nesting site

Conservationists, residents and police teamed up for a desperate last-minute bid to stop valuable nesting ground facing a chainsaw massacre.

At lunchtime on Saturday people in Heaven Tree Close, Islington, received letters from Network Rail saying work to strip back vegetation in the sidings at the end of their garden would start just after midnight that evening.

Fearing for the birds nests in the trees and because of a robust shrub clearance Network Rail performed at Drayton Park recently, one resident got in touch with Islington Green Party.

A chain of events then started which culminated in British Transport Police (BTP) declaring the clearance illegal at the 11th hour before the fellers moved in.

Emma Dixon, from Islington Green Party, said: “It was like a James Bond film – maybe not quite that exciting.

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“We were on the case from 1pm, less than 12 hours before the work was meant to start. We were manically tweeting and emailing people but it’s impossible to get in touch with anyone on a Saturday.

“Eventually someone from BTP called me at 5pm from a cricket match and said if we get an expert to confirm the nesting birds they could do something, as to disturb them is illegal.

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“I was despondent by this time – we needed someone to look before it got dark, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had closed their phone lines for the day. We weren’t getting anywhere.”

In a stroke of luck, someone at the RSPB picked up an email and, as he only lived round the corner, headed there immediately.

The expert found evidence of nesting crows, magpies, blackbirds and tits – and his verdict was enough to convince the BTP to stop Network Rail in their tracks.

Ms Dixon added: “To their eternal credit, we convinced them and the story had a happy ending. We have stopped them for now.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We need to carry out vegetation management along this section of track to trim trees which are in danger of encroaching onto overhead power lines.

‘‘The work was postponed last weekend but will be rescheduled and we will ensure local people are informed with as much as notice as possible.”

It emerged yesterday that Network Rail face prosecution over the Drayton Park works under the Wildlife and Countryside Act which protects nesting birds.

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