Stripped bare: mature trees chopped down along M621

Highways England have been trumpeting their work along the M621 in Hunslet and Belle Isle to erect noise barriers, but the residents the barriers are designed to help are less than impressed.

In a press release issued before Christmas the agency described the barriers as an “innovative noise and safety solution” that are “standing proud.” It went on to describe Hunslet as: “An area identified as a national hotspot by Defra in relation to noise” and said “feedback from residents meant that it was one of the first areas Highways England wanted to tackle using money from a special environment fund.”

The work on the barriers was due to be completed by October 2020, but is now projected to finish in March 2021.
Last summer we reported on the bright green metal ‘wall’ that appeared along Parnaby Road and the sleepless nights residents suffered during the work. That section is now to be repainted in a more subtle shade after residents, supported by their Councillors and MP complained.

Now mature trees which screen Blakeney Grove by the Junction 6 slip road have been chopped down to make way for the barriers. At the original consultation residents were told the trees would stay, then they received a letter saying the trees would be removed, but would be replaced. Now Highways England say only shrubs will be planted by the barrier.

Blakeney Grove resident Karen Lawton told us:

“We feel lied to, they said the trees wouldn’t go, then they sent a letter saying some trees would go, then when we looked out all the trees had gone.

“My neighbour Susan and I were crying when we saw what they were doing to the trees.”

“What we’re going to have to look at now, instead of trees, is a green horrible fence.”

Councillor Kim Groves (Middleton Park) commented:

“I am extremely disappointed with how Highways England have acted in Belle Isle on the removal of mature trees. The amount of trees removed that formed a green barrier to the motorway is absolutely disgraceful. Residents are now left with a mound of soil and a green sound barrier that resembles those used to secure building sites.

“This is a well sought out area to live and work in so I expect the situation to enhance the landscape and mitigate emissions to be resolved as soon as possible.

“There are many questions I would have asked on behalf of residents had I been informed or contacted before the trees were cut down. Residents had a green barrier that had been there for years and wildlife thrived. As well as health concerns this will impact on house prices.

“The removal of trees at a time when carbon emissions from the motor vehicle is the biggest threat to us and future generations surely means this is unacceptable behaviour from a government body.”

A spokesperson for Highways England said:

“We appreciate the importance of retaining vegetation where possible and only carry out this kind of work following detailed surveys and guidance from our environmental team.

“We wrote to Blakeney Grove residents on 20 October to inform that, to safely install the barrier, we would need to stabilise the embankment, which requires the removal of trees and the boundary fence. We can’t complete the stabilisation work without removing the trees. Not doing this work would increase the risk of the embankment failing, posing a safety risk to drivers and residents.

“New trees will be planted in place of the old ones where permitted by the new embankment design, and we will also replace the boundary fence.”

In other correspondence South Leeds Life has seen Highways England officers say:

“The only pollutant listed as linked to stretches of road near our network that is above standard limits is NO2. Research published on behalf of Government by the Air Quality Expert Group, indicates that vegetation does not materially affect levels of NO2 concentrations.”

In their press release Highways England project manager Sujad Hussain said:

“I would like to personally thank all residents and drivers for their patience and co-operation while we carry out these much needed improvements. Hopefully, the full benefit of the noise and safety barriers will be realised once these improvements are complete by spring.”

We will give the last word, for now, to Karen Lawton:

“If it was their back garden would it be happening? I don’t think so. If it was in north Leeds would it be happening? I don’t think so.”


7 Replies to “Stripped bare: mature trees chopped down along M621”

  1. Its really funny that they say they had to cut the rest of the trees down to be able to stabilise the embankment yet since the motorway was built the embankment has never eroded and stood up to the british weather and storms. The roots of the trees were doing a fantastic job of keeping it stable as well as cleaning the air, stopping noise, providing as nice a view as possible and a home for small mammals and birds and making the area a pleasant place to walk and exercise. It is disgusting what the council planners are allowing the Highways to do with no thought whatsoever for the people who at the end of the day pay their wages. Could it be that the only pollutant near that stretch is NO2 and vegetation does not materially affect levels of NO2 is because the trees have been doing their job and cleaning all the other pollutants away?

  2. Such small thinking from a government agency that should be working with local people and the environment…other countries lift and return mature trees to their former location. The responses from the Highways Agency demonstrate a real lack of concern and empathy.

    1. Complaining is a complete waste of time. We don’t matter. We’re no more than a thorn in their sides. As previously mentioned they have no concerns about local residents who are just expected to knuckle down and live with the consequences of them vandalising our environment. This would never happen in the leafy suburbs of North Leeds.

  3. It’s absolutely disgraceful. We have no say in the matter, like it’s been said before, if it was North leeds there would be upraw. Who ever came up with the idea of putting up a noise barrier in the first place? Well whoever it was, you can tell them it doesn’t work, we hear more noise now than we did before as the noise just bounces off it. We are higher than it so we knew that it was never going to work, so what clever structural engineer got paid for that brilliant idea? Oh that’s right the person that doesn’t live around here to see it or hear the traffic. What an absolute joke and waste of time and money.

  4. Are any trees safe? Are new trees going to be planted in other areas or not? What about the wildlife that will have been disturbed because of this thoughtless action. ! Terrible to uproot these beautiful trees – so much for progress !

  5. I’m old enough to recall the sanctioned butchery and rape of this area in the late 60s/70s that was attributed to the ‘essential ‘ Motorway City Leeds.
    Criminal culling of countless splendidly built 19th century dwellings ( no they were not slums) in the Westburys
    As for the community of Stourton that too was eradicated to become merely a map reference and today nothing remains, it’s name is printed on a handful of motorway signs.
    Look at the Park & Ride monstrosity that too has been completely unsparing of the ‘ hollow ‘ fields and land where we fed horses and played in the tall grass as children.
    It is impossible now to walk any pavement in any street and not have to walk into the road this is the price for multi car ownership.
    It is the cost of being able to just jump into your car to go a few hundred yards to pick up a newspaper. And that is the choice that you have made.!
    In consequence the trees and environment are necessary casualties the motor vehicle and environment…. never the twain shall meet

    1. You are absolutely right Tony Callaghan., And I have to say non of this would happen in more prosperous areas.

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