Letchworth trees cut down after BT refuses access to rail tracks for lifts project

21 trees in a conservation area had to be cut down in the Settlement's carpark on Nevells Road in or

21 trees in a conservation area had to be cut down in the Settlement's carpark on Nevells Road in order to access the train track - Credit: Archant

Trees in a conservation area have been cut down in order to access railway tracks after a company refused to allow its car park to be used.

Network Rail is currently building lifts to improve access for disabled people at Letchworth Garden City Railway Station.

The rail infrastructor operator originally asked BT if it could access the tracks through the telecommunications company’s Engage IT building on Works Road, but were refused.

Therefore Network Rail have gained access via The Settlement’s car park on Nevells Road – with 21 trees in a conservation area subsequently felled.

Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire, said: “I think it is very disappointing that BT won’t cooperate and it is a pity that it has been refused to allow access.

“Cutting down trees is never a good thing in a garden city.”

“We have been campaigning to have these lifts installed for more than 10 years and I am hoping that this does not delay the project significantly. Disabled people in Letchworth have made it clear the lifts need to be built.”

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Guy Parckar, head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability, which has been campaigning for the installation of the lifts, said: “We hope the work will be finished soon so people with disabilities no longer have to travel to neighbouring stations every time they want to get on a train.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “As part of the ‘Access for All’ accessibility programme, we are building lifts at Letchworth station. We had hoped to access the site through land owned by BT however, permission was declined.

“As an alternative, we approached the local authority North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC), which granted permission to erect a haul road through nearby woodland, which is now complete.”

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “An application was made to the council for the removal of 21 trees in a conservation area on land south of Nevells Road and north of the railway line in Letchworth. As it was deemed that none of the trees, which are of various species and mainly small in size, are worthy of the protection afforded by a Tree Preservation Order, no objection was raised.”

A spokesman for BT said: “We investigated this approach at our exchange building last year. This is an operational site and after detailed consideration we decided that we would not be able to accommodate this request.”

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