A rail operator has promised to tell residents in advance about tree-felling after it cut down hundreds at a Stamford Hill nature reserve.

Network Rail’s tree-felling programme at the East and West Bank Nature Reserve, a Site for the Importance of Nature Conservation, caused upset and concern about nesting birds in March.

The council-owned reserve is managed by volunteers but Network Rail is responsible for the railway cuttings.

According to the Town Hall, the reserve between Stamford Hill and Dunsmure Road was home to 5 to 10 per cent of the borough’s mature trees.

Network Rail said the trees had grown so much they “posed a safety risk to passengers”, so cleared them.

The move left volunteers “angry and distressed” and they said they thought the rail company had an agreement to leave the embankment to flourish.

They accused Network Rail of “poor practice” for felling trees during the nesting season.

Glyphosate eco-plugs were also attached to the tree roots to prevent regrowth, said the council, which has worked to cut its own use of the pesticide because of the harm it causes to biodiversity.

The reserve is closed to the public and was designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation in 2002.

Volunteers fitted owl, bird and bat boxes in the reserve, which is home to 40 species of birds, including tawny owls, peregrine falcons, nightingales and greater spotted woodpeckers, along with 70 species of plants and flowers.

Mark Walker, route infrastructure engineer for Network Rail’s Anglia Route, said the company would work more closely with the community, adding: “We normally tell our neighbours about this kind of work before we begin, but in this case we didn’t nor did we explain why we were doing it, or how we’d mitigate against its impact.

"This was wrong and caused a lot of upset for which I’m sorry."

In a recent meeting with Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, local MP Diane Abbott and Town Hall parks chief Cllr Caroline Woodley, the company explained that it had surveyed the wildlife before the work started

Staff earmarked trees with nesting birds to prevent them being felled. It will also be putting in new plants this autumn to replace what was lost.

The politicians welcomed Network Rail’s pledge to work more closely with the community and prevent a similar incident.