Rail freight fight

PUBLISHED: 17:09 04 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010

SIR – It seems I will probably be at odds with some politicians as well as with some fellow readers with my views on the county council s stance on the rail freight public inquiry, as I clearly am with some on the proposed new Westminster Lodge scheme. Th

SIR - It seems I will probably be at odds with some politicians as well as with some fellow readers with my views on the county council's stance on the rail freight public inquiry, as I clearly am with some on the proposed new Westminster Lodge scheme.

The recent surprise news of the prospect of a tram service to replace the Abbey Flyer giving us a more frequent service to Watford is very welcome indeed.

This I feel reinforces my argument on the amount of the pressures on this area of Verulamium park. How will the park and walk be accommodated, a hub for the new tram link, increased patronage of the leisure facilities due to increased offer, park visitors, running track and golf course users and not forgetting theatre patrons?

This is a relatively small site. These issues must be given more detailed attention before millions of pounds of our money is spent and debt racked up on a new leisure centre in place of a swimming pool. The need to see the big picture I believe cannot be underestimated or ignored.

Apart from seemingly having limited interest in the issues raised above, which is far from definitive, those who argue 'just get on with it', obviously have deeper pockets than I, as we were not advised of the costs during the scant consultation process either.

This is a fundamental question that residents must know the answer to before we can make an informed judgement.

Or are the district council going to say many of these issues are not their problem and blame others if things go pear shaped?

Lashing out mindlessly, as seen by last week's reaction to the county's reluctance to submit transport issues again on the rail freight appeal seems to be flavour of the month.

I am no fan of Herts Highways. I believe they don't employ the brightest and best and consequently let us down all too often.

I sat, with others, through their truly dreadful performance at the recent planning meeting regarding further proposals for housing on King Harry Lane. Their report contradicted itself and their conclusions were I thought unconvincing.

However on learning that the county council would not be submitting highways grounds in supporting St Albans District Council against Helioslough, my gut reaction was not to stupidly sound off that they had "sold us down the river" or "stabbed us in the back", but acknowledge with utter frustration that this was another consequence of Helioslough pressing home their 'tactical advantage', by coming back with another planning application and appeal so soon after their last.

If those politicians who vowed not to make this issue party political thought before their ill-conceived comments they would see this was a not too surprising consequence of Helioslough's tactics.

As the representative of Helioslough threatened at the planning meeting in July they would not hesitate in using Communities and Local Government Circular 03/2009 relating to "Awards of costs for 'unreasonable behaviour' in planning and planning related appeals," which states one ground is; "persisting in objections to a scheme, or part of a scheme, which has already been granted planning permission or which the Secretary of State or an Inspector has previously indicated to be acceptable".

As the Herts Advertiser has reported I am continuing my complaint about the way the Planning Inspectorate has handled this appeal with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

It may not be headline-grabbing but it is a focused way of challenging what I perceive as an unreasonable attempt to gain a "tactical advantage" by the appellant.

Focus on the issues politicians or the old adage might apply - 'empty vessels make the most noise'.

VANESSA GREGORY

Tennyson Road, St Albans

SIR - Following recent coverage about Helioslough's second planning application for a rail freight terminal at Radlett Airfield, I would like to make it clear that, while we have not objected to the latest application, Hertfordshire County Council does not in any way support the proposed development.

The council objected on highway grounds to the first application. However, the Secretary of State made it clear that those concerns held little weight in her final decision to recommend refusal after the first public inquiry in 2007.

As the second application is the same as the first and there have been no material changes in circumstances since that time, an objection on highway grounds could not be justified in legal terms in this case.

Indeed, according to independent legal advice taken by the council, such an objection may be considered unreasonable and could therefore result in very substantial costs being claimed against the authority.

However, some of our concerns about the impact of the proposed development on the highway network are still relevant to the latest application. One of these concerns relates to the M25 at junctions 21A and 22. While we cannot formally object over this concern (the Highways Agency is responsible for the motorways, rather than the county council), we will continue to work with the Highways Agency and Helioslough on their investigations.

STUART PILE

Executive Member for Highways and Transport,

Hertfordshire County Council

SIR - The ding-dong battle between Mr Roberts and Mr Middleton over rail paths and freight train movements continues!

By implication, Mr Roberts seems to suggest that the world is not perfect and the proposed Freight Interchange Terminal would compromise the £5.5 billion investment in passenger rail services.

Mr Middleton implies that split-second timing is always achievable and he wants this massive rail freight terminal.

If Mr Roberts is wrong, only the Green Belt and road users will suffer.

If Mr Middleton is wrong, it could turn into a road-only freight terminal, or suffer the 'Alconbury effect' where a proposed rail freight terminal ended up as a housing estate.

Mr Roberts appears to support local residents' concerns, perhaps Mr Middleton works for Helioslough, the developers.

With the planning appeal starting on November 24, we will find out which view the planning inspector supports.

CHRIS ADKINS

Hatfield Road, St Albans

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