Network Rail in Gainsborough

I know this is not strictly about Beckingham Marshes but I need to vent my anger somewhere!!!

Yesterday evening I had a letter pushed through my letterbox from Network Rail informing me that on Monday 13th June they will begin work to create a compound on Lea Road in Gainsborough, in which they will be building a new railway bridge. Apparently to do this they will need to remove trees and bushes. They obviously haven't noticed that we are slap bang in the middle of the nesting season for birds and that removing these trees and busheds will inevitably destroy active nests. I know that this is against the law, but I fully expect them to do it anyway. What use is the law under these circumstances? The railway embankment is like a mini nature reserve supporting many many wild birds and my house overlooks this area so I will have to put up with seeing it all happen........................



Why is there never enough time?

  • I know what you mean, unfortunately wildlife is not high on their list of priorities. The railway runs at the bottom of my garden and the trees are used as a bird motorway to get safely from one feeding area to another, they cut down half of the trees all the way along a couple of years ago and the birds are only just getting used to it again now.


  • Hi Virginia,

    Thanks for raising this matter.

    I did run this past our Regional Planning and Local Government Officer, who has already dealt with a couple of similar complaints.  His response to these is as follows:

    Tree clearance by Network Rail

    Thank you for your letter regarding cutting down trees for railway maintenance. I understand that it is upsetting seeing trees being cut down during the breeding season, as it’s such an active time of year for the birds.

    The RSPB has occasional meetings with Network Rail at a national level to flag up any operational issues. Our advice as always is to avoid the period of mid-March to the end of July for tree cutting, where possible. Network Rail is not breaking the law by carrying out work during the breeding season and their own website explains the steps they take when they have to do work at this time of year. They say that before they clear vegetation they carry out a risk assessment of the area to see if any nesting birds or protected species may be present. If a nest is found they mark an exclusion area of at least two metres around the nest.

     If you ask them I am sure that Network Rail will say they do their best to avoid work in the breeding season but that the sheer scale of the rail network, including thousands of miles of track, means that they simply cannot do all the work that is necessary in the period August to February. This kind of situation is allowed for by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, which says that where damage to birds’ nests is the incidental result of a lawful operation ‘that could not reasonably have been avoided’, no offence has been committed.

    I appreciate that you may not be happy with this situation but legally Network Rail can probably defend their actions. Nonetheless I would encourage you to write to them explaining your concerns because public opinion will help ensure that doing tree clearance in the breeding season remains an option of last resort.


    I hope this helps.