ANSWERS are being sought from Network Rail as to why trees were cut down on land alongside a railway line in Knutsford.

Knutsford resident Malcolm Thomas said the trees were cut down on land between the line and an access road to workshops off Stanley Road.

Malcolm and Kevin Griffiths are seeking to conduct a survey of the 4,000 mature trees on public land in Knutsford over the coming weeks with the help of volunteers.

The survey is one of the projects being undertaken by their recently-launched group Town Amongst The Trees, which will be campaigning to nurture the town’s trees and encourage people to plant new ones.

Malcolm said it was ‘very disappointing’ that Network Rail had apparently removed some mature trees which appeared to have been healthy on their land off Stanley Road.

Knutsford Guardian:

He said: “On the face of it this is an unnecessary loss of our tree cover and an illogical action given that there are numerous other large trees lining the track but located in private gardens.

“We need to be urgently protecting and extending our tree population to help mitigate climate change, provide habitats for wildlife, and to improve our general wellbeing.

“Trees give our neighbourhood life, colour and beauty, clean our air and help protect us from extreme weather.

“They were mature trees, and when you look at the stumps of the trunks which have been left they weren’t unhealthy.

“They could have lopped the branches rather than taken the trees down.”

Knutsford Guardian:

Cheshire East councillor Tony Dean said: "For those Knutsfordians who were perturbed by Network Rail’s tree-felling activities on the Mid Cheshire line in Knutsford recently, the good news is we managed to restrict the severity of the tree felling, while still looking after the track reliability, by prompt action.

"I was contacted last week by two of my neighbours, one of who is a fellow Conservative councillor.

"Both their houses happen to back onto the railway embankment, and they had become aware of contractors rapidly clearing trees on the other side of the track.

"They were informed by one of the contractors that they intended to ‘clear fell’ a 400-metre stretch down both sides of the line.

"This would have meant clearing about 50 mature native trees, among other valuable specimens, at some distance from the line.

"Alarmed, they contacted me, and I immediately called on my council’s environmental team colleagues to question the extent of the work and its effect on the ecology of that area - including the potential permanent loss of mature trees.

"The team managed to get through to a senior manager at Network Rail, who agreed to pause the work whilst they reconsidered their plans. The men and machines duly left the site.

"Last Friday a Network Rail manager called me to say the work they had already done in that area was now considered almost sufficient for their line protection purposes, and they would return only to do very minor works before completion. We will keep a close watch for their return.

"This proves that even a national monolith like Network Rail can be responsive to public concerns if local councillors act quickly, as we did on this occasion - a pleasing result."

A spokesman for Network Rail, said: “We constantly need to manage the growth of lineside trees and vegetation to make sure we can run a safe and reliable railway network.

"We’d like to reassure residents that we were never intending to remove all of the trees on this section of railway in Knutsford – only a selected few which posed a risk to the safe running of trains on this important route for passenger and freight services.

“When approached we explained this to local councillors, emphasising Network Rail’s commitment to carefully follow guidelines which make sure protected habitats are not adversely impacted when we carry out essential safety work of this kind.”

Malcolm Thomas was inspired to start the Town Amongst The Trees group by the view of the Knutsford tree canopy.

He said: “What really inspired me was two years ago we had an open house for interesting buildings in Knutsford.

“I went up the St John’s Church tower roof and looked out, and you couldn’t see any buildings – it was all trees.

“I didn’t realise the number of trees we have in Knutsford. We’ve got all these beautiful mature trees, but they were planted 100 to 130 years ago, and no-one has planted any successors since.”

Using satellite images and free to use GIS software Malcolm has established that Knutsford has 8,000 mature trees.

The next stage of the project is to put together a team of volunteers to collect information about the 4,000 trees in the public spaces, their species, size and age.

“We’re hoping to get started during the coming weeks, and are looking for volunteers to help,” he said.

“If we manage to get between six and 10 volunteers we could get it cracked by September.”

If anyone would like to volunteer email