Is rail freight depot fight over?

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot - Credit: Archant

The decades-long battle to prevent a rail freight depot being built south of St Albans could finally be over - but the result is the worst possible news.

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has confirmed that developers Segro are aiming to complete the purchase of the former Radlett airfield site by the end of this year and will look to start 'enabling works' on the site within the next 12 months.

The company is still pushing ahead with plans for a strategic rail freight interchange, and has made formal approaches to landowners Herts county council, Gorhambury Estate and Tarmac about finally buying the site.

Under their plans, a 3.5 million sqm area of Green Belt – the size of 490 football pitches – will be converted into a massive rail and lorry park complete with warehouses, lorries, container storage and HGV parking. It will bring thousands of heavy goods vehicles per day, and bring huge disruption to the surrounding roads and commuter rail links.

Daisy said she had held a meeting with representatives from Segro in which she reiterated her grave concerns about the impact that this proposal would have on residents, and repeated her opposition to the plans.

"I also made clear that they would need to prevent lorries from parking up in villages and the surrounding area, which would cause a real nuisance to village residents.

"If they do manage to acquire the land, Segro has committed to establishing a local steering group with resident representatives. They’ve also confirmed they have no plans to operate any 'lorry to lorry' transfers on site, and they promised to consider my suggestion of including high quality HGV driver facilities, so lorries don’t use the neighbouring roads and communities for parking and rest stops.

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"I appreciate that this news will be a huge blow to everyone who’s fought these plans. If they do go ahead, please rest assured that I’ll be working with local councillors to ensure we can protect Park Street and other affected villages as far as possible from the impact and ensure residents’ voices are heard at every stage."

Campaign group STRiFE (Stop The Rail Freight Exchange) which has been fighting the plans for years, had the following response: “Clearly this news is extremely disappointing for Park Street, St Albans, Radlett and all the surrounding villages and the area as a whole.

"STRiFE are trying to establish what the situation is regarding Network Rail and train slots needed for the freight trains.

 "Whilst we appreciate the income this site would generate for Herts county council potentially, we would urge constraint on the Green Belt with its resultant loss to the whole county.

"Sadly we do not believe the claim of 'no lorry to lorry transfers on site' as we know that only about 25% was ever to be road to rail in the original plans. It’s very sad news for the whole area.”

But a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said a decision on the site was far from a fait accompli: “We are in discussions with SEGRO, through our agents, about the potential sale of this land, but no deal has been agreed. Any proposed deal would need to be approved by the county council’s Cabinet through the normal democratic processes.”