Battle is over but Radlett rail freight war continues

A RESOUNDING no met Helioslough s second application for a massive rail freight terminal on Green Belt land in Park Street this week. The district council s planning referrals committee unanimously rejected the plans for the former Radlett Airfield at t

A RESOUNDING "no" met Helioslough's second application for a massive rail freight terminal on Green Belt land in Park Street this week.

The district council's planning referrals committee unanimously rejected the plans for the former Radlett Airfield at their meeting on Monday night, which was held at the Alban Arena and attended by more than 350 concerned residents.

Loud applause erupted when all nine councillors on the panel agreed with the planning officers' report and voted against the proposal on 14 separate grounds, including the impact on the Green Belt and the lack of an adequate alternative sites survey.

But, as expected, Helioslough immediately vowed to appeal against the decision and the company has already asked for another public inquiry in October.


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The first public inquiry in 2007 lasted for nearly two months and cost taxpayers' around �750,000 to fight. Although the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, upheld the council's decision, she said the harm to the Green Belt could be outweighed if the developer proved it was the best site.

And Helioslough returned with a new alternative sites survey to back-up their second application earlier this year, which is substantially the same as the first.

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It includes 3.5 million sq ft of warehousing in five buildings - one larger than Heathrow's Terminal Five - together with associated road, rail and other infrastructure and parking for hundreds of cars and lorries. A Park Street relief road and country park is also promised.

Confidence

Helioslough's Simon Hoare told the Herts Advertiser following Monday's meeting that he knew the council's decision was a "foregone" conclusion, but said he was very confident that the company would win the next appeal with the new alternatives sites study.

But councillor Chris Brazier, the district's council planning portfolio holder and chair of the panel responsible for Monday's decision, believes that the council will win the next inquiry by a clearer margin than last time, which could see them recoup their costs.

He said: "I think we have come up with 14 very good reasons to refuse. They have not met the Secretary of State's criteria for an alternative sites survey and they have not demonstrated that the development would not have a harmful affect on the Green Belt."

Rail passenger group ATOC came out against the proposal last week on the side of First Capital Connect, claiming that it would be "practically impossible" to fit additional trains on the already heavily used Midland Mainline.

Cllr Brazier thinks this latest objection substantially backs up the council's case.

Council leader, Robert Donald, said that the panel's decision to refuse planning permission is the right one to maintain the "uniqueness" of the community" and promised that the council will fight the proposals all the way and win.

Campaign group Stop the Rail Freight Exchange (STRiFE), which had its own representation with community funding at the last inquiry, is also ready to continue the battle.

A spokesperson said this week: "If an appeal is forthcoming we will fully support the council in defending their decision to refuse the application. We will of course register to participate in any subsequent public inquiry where we will endeavour to submit strong and persuasive evidence to help defeat this monstrous threat to the city of St Albans and to the well being and quality of life of its residents."

He also thanked the council for their determination and the local residents and stakeholders who attended the meeting and made written representations.

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