Network Rail poised to clear an area equivalent to at least 12 football pitches in a Leeds wildlife corridor

Network Rail’s contractors are planning on beginning an extensive programme of tree felling and vegetation clearance along a 7.5km stretch of the Harrogate Line from the Grade II listed Kirkstall Viaduct to 1/2km beyond Horsforth Station.

The railway is an important wildlife corridor rich with protected species, running through a number of conservation areas, a Local Wildlife Site, Leeds Nature Area, the Leeds Wildlife Habitat Network and UK Priority Habitats.

The railway corridor is also a key pollinator route for insects and is one of the many B-Lines running across the country.

Most if not all of the trees and vegetation will be removed — at least 6.5m either side of the running rails and sometimes more. Some local residents have been mistakenly led to believe this will only involve light ‘pruning’ of branches away from signals.

As a bare minimum therefore this means the removal of an area of trees / vegetation of 100,750m2 or 24.9 acres (10.08 hectares). That’s the equivalent of 12 1/2 football pitches and larger than the area covered by the whole of Armley Park and Gotts Park in Leeds.

Tree stumps will be killed with glyphosate and contractors are sending felled trees to be used as biofuel.

Network Rail have refused to share copies of ecology reports, tree surveys, environmental and social appraisals, climate change impact reports or sustainable management / habitat management plans.

They refuse to discuss local concerns in a public forum and have ignored many written complaints and concerns or merely provided generic cut and paste answers.

Network Rail have not meaningfully engaged with residents, community groups, lineside neighbour groups, environmentalists and other local stakeholders. According to our calculations, letters should have gone out to residents and businesses living up to 500m from the line but that would have meant over 20,000 letters going out — they told our MP Rachel Reeves that they had sent ‘over 4,500’ and said to BBC Look North that the number was 5,000: less than 1/4 of residents entitled to be appraised of the work.

A key reason given for the larger areas of trees to be removed is ‘leaves on the line’. But rather than fell trees and remove leaves which mitigate the effects of air pollution Network Rail could leave trees where they are and use variable rate sanders as mentioned in the Valuing Nature Review or ‘leaf busting trains‘.

We’ve seen no tree safety survey to show that they have assessed which trees may be a safety risk.

An identical programme of work to be carried out by the same contractors in Bradford last year was criticised by Bradford Council: ‘the proposed work fails to comply with good arboricultural practice, would be harmful to the woodland edge and various individual trees.’

Join us to ask for the work to be paused pending meaningful engagement

Please join us to ask Network Rail to put this programme of work on hold until residents and other stakeholders can be properly informed and engaged — and a more proportionate plan put in place which manages the railway for safety whilst respecting biodiversity and the importance of our wildlife corridors, and does not unnecessarily harm the environment in the context of the climate emergency.

Ask them to supply their reports about this work to justify what they are doing meets Network Rail standards and the recommendations of the Valuing Nature Review (chaired by John Varley), Earthworks Management Review, and other Network Rail policies and strategies.

Ask Network Rail to meet with lineside neighbours and other stakeholders to discuss alternative approaches to managing the railway.

Join up with other local people in Leeds who live beside the city’s railway lines and are concerned about the disproportionate nature of programmes of work such as this. Email us at

Dates of the work

The work was paused last weekend following complaints from local people regarding the lack of communication.

The next shift is due overnight on Saturday 25 September, starting at 23:30 and ending on Sunday at 11:45.

See here for a copy of the letter sent to some lineside neighbours with a full list of times and dates.

Please join us in asking for it to be paused so local people can be meaningfully engaged and get full details about the work.

UPDATE: We’ve heard that Network Rail have told Leeds City Council (evening of Friday 24 September) that they will not pause the work.

Instead of carrying out the work on the dates as told to local people, they have said to Leeds City Council that they are starting TONIGHT (Friday) and it seems that they will just keep going all through next week to remove as much as they can as quickly as possible. No local residents have been provided with any details.

This is not the first time they have ignored their own policies to give 10 days notice of work or to “… make it a priority to share information with our lineside neighbours so they know exactly what we’re doing, why, when and how it will affect them.”

It’s further evidence over Network Rail’s lack of transparency, openness and honesty as defined in the Nolan Principles and indeed their own policies.

Once again, Network Rail has completely failed to understand what it means to respect and meaningfully engage local people & other key stakeholders, be a ‘caring neighbour‘ and ‘work collaboratively and sensitively with the communities affected by our work on the railway.. Their claims on their website therefore seem to be entirely meaningless and they appear to think that the Varley Report recommendations do not apply to them.


More information

See here for a dedicated page about the Harrogate Line.

Complain to Network Rail

Contact Network Rail to complain by phoning their 24 hour helpline: 03457 11 41 11

Use their online chat service or email them using the form on their website

You can also write to Network Rail, 1 Eversholt Street, London, NW1 2DN

Email the CEO:

Contact your local Ward Councillors

Contact your MP

Write to the Minister for Transport:

Email the Woodland Trust:

Email The Tree Council (Network Rail’s critical friend):

Contact the RSPB 

Contact Leeds Climate Commission:

Email DEFRA to ask them to follow through on their commitment to have a national Tree Champion (part of the remit was to protect trees and make it a duty to consult before cutting down trees).

Contact local and national environmental groups.

Spread the word and share on social media.

Contact the press.

If you want to join us or find out more about Armley Trees, and for updates, please sign up to our blog or email us at