Radlett rail freight saga set to go to judicial review

PUBLISHED: 18:35 15 February 2013

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rail freight logo

Archant

A JUDICIAL Review looks inevitable after the Secretary of State turned down the district council’s request that he should reopen an inquiry into the proposed rail freight depot in Park Street.

The council had written to Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles asking him to reopen the inquiry and conjoin it with an alternative site for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) in Colnbrook, Slough, as the Secretary of State had originally proposed.

They had warned that if Mr Pickles declined to do so they would challenge the issue through judicial review – and they heard last week that he had turned down their request.

It means that as things stand, developers Helioslough have effectively got planning permission for the massive SRFI on the former Radlett Airfield subject to planning agreements.

Mr Pickles announced his decision only a week after deciding not to push ahead with a conjoined inquiry – and it is that latter ruling which the council are planning to challenge at judical review.

In the meantime, county councillors were due to take a first look at the Secretary of State’s decision that he was “minded to approve” the Helioslough application on a site which it owns at a cabinet panel meeting yesterday afternoon.

The freehold of the former Radlett Airfield was transferred into the ownership of the county council in 2006 as a result of legal agreements for gravel extraction and land restoration with Lafarge in 1985.

Helioslough is understood to have reached a joint venture agreement with Lafarge and the Gorhambury Estates Company, with regard to the 419-hectare site included in the planning application. But the five large buildings it proposes to build as part of the SRFI are exclusively on the county council’s 119-hectare site as is the rail connection infrastructure.

The panel heard that since Mr Pickles’ ruling that he was “minded to approve” the SRFI application SEGRO, the parent company of Helioslough, had asked the county council if it would be prepared to enter into discussions about Radlett Airfield.

A decision will rest with the county council’s cabinet later this month.

n St Albans MP Anne Main is continuing her battle to highlight the rail freight issue in the House of Commons.

In a debate on Tuesday in which much focus was put on the need to get Britain building, she emphasised the need to view planning and infrastructure decisions in a way in which the local economy and environment was considered.

Using the debate to highlight the Radlett rail freight interim decision, Mrs Main argued that this was exactly a situation in which local considerations had been overshadowed by the perceived economic necessity for a site.

n An online petition set up by action group STRiFE with the aim of forcing a full county council debate on the issue of selling Radlett Airfield has now got around 7,400 signatures. To help it reach its 10,000 target go to https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614

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