Campaigners in St Johns have slammed Network Rail’s plans to chop down trees near the railway line as “slash and burn policies.”

Syd Bolton, lawyer and transport rep for the St Johns Society, told News Shopper the community group was “very, very concerned” after residents were told of plans last week.

A letter sent to residents confirms a proposal to slash trees from near the railway line between Grove Park and New Cross.

It reads: “As part of our tree and vegetation management programme we will be clearing a seven-metre wide corridor on either side of the track on our land.”

It adds the work will be "removing any dangerous trees and plants along the side of the railway which may be out of the seven-metre wide corridor, prioritising areas that pose a significant safety risk or are likely to cause delays to passenger journeys.”

When asked to further explain the seven-metre boundary by News Shopper, Network Rail did not comment.

Mr Bolton, who has lived in St Johns for five years, said: “We stand to lose a very significant feature of our environment. We have few trees as we are in an inner city borough.

“To lose those is going to significantly harm our landscape, but they also act as a pollutant absorber, a light barrier, a sound barrier and a biosphere for the local flora and fauna.”

According to Mr Bolton, the letter follows 18 months of a battle between campaigners across the UK and the rail company which escalated up to the transport secretary.

“Since then, every time we’ve asked what progress has been made, we’ve been told nothing.

“When that letter came through letterboxes, we were very surprised,” he told News Shopper.

After talks with Network Rail, The St Johns Society was told no action would taken to shop down trees in the area without consulting the group first.

Despite this assurance, Mr Bolton said the Society is still worried.

“Our wider concern is not just for St Johns. It’s the impact across the whole borough. Our trees are close to railway line.

“Network Rail hold all the cards and it is potentially very devastating.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The competing challenges we face in managing vegetation near the railway are well known; safety of the 4.6m people who use and rely on our railway every day, maintaining habitat for wildlife and the impact on our neighbours.

“We have well thought out standards and policies that help us balance the safety of passengers with the needs of the environment and will continue to work alongside stakeholders to minimise the impact of our vegetation management on the environment, while ensuring the continued safe operation of the railway.”

He did not confirm the assurance that residents will be consulted before tree felling begins.