After Herts Highways betrayal, fight against St Albans rail freight depot enters final stages
PUBLISHED: 15:01 08 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:39 06 May 2010
ANGRY and disappointed phone calls have poured in to pressure group STRiFE since it emerged that Herts Highways are not going to appear at this month s rail freight inquiry. Last week the county council as highways authority said that it would not be appe
ANGRY and disappointed phone calls have poured in to pressure group STRiFE since it emerged that Herts Highways are not going to appear at this month's rail freight inquiry.
Last week the county council as highways authority said that it would not be appearing because there were no new traffic reasons to oppose the Helioslough scheme for Radlett Airfield since the first public inquiry nearly two years ago..
They have backed off for two reasons - the inspector's ruling that he did not want old issues revisited at the inquiry unless there had been significant changes and the risk that substantial costs could be awarded against the county council if they went ahead.
Cathy Bolshaw, spokesperson for STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange - said this week: "The overall feeling is that Herts Highways have let us, the public, down in a very critical area that needed to be addressed and which is quite honestly, the general public's biggest fear, that the traffic generated from this proposal would blight our lives forever."
The county council's decision has left STRiFE in a very difficult position with only weeks before the public inquiry opens. The pressure group had to prioritise where it spent its funds, donated by the public, and had decided that as Herts Highways were defending the road position, they could safely leave the job in the hands of the experts.
Cathy explained that had STRiFE known before the date of exchange of proofs of evidence between the parties fighting the public inquiry that Herts Highways were not in a position to do that, they would have taken the case on board and looked at other alternatives such as employing a consultant to look at the highways case.
She went on: "STRiFE are very surprised and extremely disappointed that Herts Highways felt that they didn't have issues with the previous Inspector's conclusions and therefore didn't have reason to challenge them on our, the general public's. behalf. STRiFE still does have issues and they will be addressed at the forthcoming public inquiry."
Cathy said that local residents who regularly drove along the A414 and all the surrounding roads, knew that there was a problem now, particularly when there was an incident on the local motorways.
She questioned what would happen to the local area with an extra 3,000 HGVs plus the probable extra 1,000 ancillary vehicles 24 hours a day which would result if the rail freight interchange was built.
A meeting of St Albans planning referrals committee is being held in the district council offices next Thursday evening to discuss the highways authority decision to pull out of the inquiry.
One aspect which will be considered is whether the district council can support highways objections without the county council and whether or not it would be possible to employ a highways expert for the inquiry.
Blob* STRiFe is very near its target of £30,000 to present its case at the public inquiry on November 24 but it still needs more money so that its barrister Paul Stinchcombe can cross-examine as many witnesses as possible.
It is even more critical now in light of the highways situation and anyone who can help is asked to go to www.strife.biz to donate.