St Albans rail freight fight moves into next stage, while Kent wages similar battle

PUBLISHED: 13:01 08 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:30 06 May 2010

AS all parties involved in the rail freight depot application for Park Street meet to confirm a date for the next stage of the planning procedure today, a public inquiry into a similar scheme in Kent is about to open. And opposition to the scheme for a St

AS all parties involved in the rail freight depot application for Park Street meet to confirm a date for the next stage of the planning procedure today, a public inquiry into a similar scheme in Kent is about to open.

And opposition to the scheme for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) next to the M20 motorway close to Maidstone is every bit as strong as it is in the St Albans district.

The Kent International Gateway (KIG) scheme for a rail/road freight interchange, warehousing and offices would be built on 112 hectares of land in mid Kent which, it is feared by protestors, would cause huge visual, sound and light pollution damage to the Kent Downs, an area of outstanding national beauty.

They are also concerned about the increased rail movements, the increase in lorry traffic and the additional traffic for the 3,000 staff KIG would employ.

A protest group, STOP KIG, has been set up to fight the scheme with the backing of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), local residents and MPs.

Applicants Kent International Gateway Ltd - comprising the AXA Group - went to appeal on the scheme because of the non-determination by Maidstone Borough Council and the public inquiry begins on Tuesday. It is expected to last at least eight weeks.

To members of STRiFE - Stop the Rail Freight Exchange - which was set up to fight the Helioslough scheme for Radlett Airfield, the objections to the situation in Kent is remarkably similar except for one key factor - a second public inquiry into the St Albans scheme is looming after Helioslough was unsuccessful first time round because of insufficient work on the availability of alternative sites.

Helioslough has been charged with demonstrating that there are no alternative sites in the south east where the government has said it wants three to four new SRFIs and the developers are pushing for that issue alone to be at the heart of the forthcoming public inquiry.

One SRFI already has planning permission at Howbury Park near Bexley but so far no work has started and a planning application is due to be submitted for an SRFI at Colnbrook near Heathrow early next year.

The St Albans pre-inquiry meeting is being held in the district council offices today but is only open to parties who spoke at the last public inquiry.

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