St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has used parliamentary questions to find out the latest correspondence between Herts County Council and the Department for Transport, in regards to the controversial rail freight terminal plans in Park Street.

The parliamentary process revealed that the DfT has not been contacted by the council, which has claimed to be "reluctant sellers" of the site to make way for the plans at the Radlett Airfield site.

People living in Park Street have been fighting for more than a decade against the decision to sell land there for a rail freight depot.

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It's feared that the Conservative plan for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange, or SRFI, could blight Green Belt land and put thousands more lorries on St Albans' roads. .

Part of the case against the plan hinges on whether the terminal is still considered viable or necessary, after permission was granted by former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, in 2014.

Two legal opinions have claimed that HCC could refuse to sell the land if there was a "change in circumstances".

On March 8, Daisy Cooper asked whether the Ministry for Transport had had any correspondence with Hertfordshire County Council regarding the county's rail freight requirements.

On Monday, March 13, the reply from Transport Minister Huw Merriman confirmed that "there have been no recent direct discussions with, or correspondence received from, Hertfordshire County Council in relation to changes to rail freight capacity requirements".

Herts Advertiser: Plans would see a rail freight terminal built of Park Street Green Belt landPlans would see a rail freight terminal built of Park Street Green Belt land (Image: Newsquest)

In a letter to Daisy Cooper on January 26, Hertfordshire County Council said they were "not aware of any material change in circumstances" which might have allowed them to keep the land as Green Belt.

"We now know they weren't aware of anything because they hadn't bothered to find out," says Daisy.

The St Albans MP, and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, shared the revelation with the local campaign group Save St Albans: Fight The Freight on Thursday, as they launched a week of protests and awareness-raising events across the county.

This latest information obtained by Daisy comes in the light of the latest and most up to date legal opinion obtained by the group from expert barrister, Paul Brown KC.

His advice confirms that HCC are entitled to refuse to sell their land to enable the terminal.

A Herts County Council spokesperson has said: “As part of the sale process, the county council has sought and received external updated opinion from counsel.

"We have made this advice public for review by any interested parties. Due to commercial sensitivity, a small section has been redacted but the premise remains that following the approval by the Secretary of State for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange on this site we are obligated to sell our land interest if a number of conditions are met.”

In response to this latest revelation, Daisy said: “Any number of issues - such as the predicted capacity on the A414, the creation of new rail freight terminals since the 2014 decision, capacity and routes for rail freight, and potential changes to greenbelt protections - would have been worth exploring.

“Any landowner not wanting to sell its land would have bent over backwards to look into this.

“On December 1 last year, before St Albans residents and I forced their hand to publish this legal advice, every single Conservative councillor on the County’s Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel voted to sell our green belt land to developers.

"I spoke at that meeting to make the case for halting the sale. It now appears they failed to act on their own legal advice by neglecting to follow through on the most basic question of all – have there been any significant changes in circumstances that might justify a refusal to sell our land?

Save St Albans: Fight The Freight will be gathering at 1pm tomorrow (Saturday, March 18) at the clock tower, to raise awareness of their campaign.

Herts County Council has been approached for comment.