Call for a united front to battle Park Street rail freight

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A plea for the district and county councils to come together and present a united front against rail freight terminal proposals for Park Street has come from the parish most affected.

Earlier this month Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles granted planning permission for Helioslough to build a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street – at the same time admitting it would harm the Green Belt.

The decision has left St Stephen parish council reeling and chairman Cllr Mick Freeman said this week: “At the end of the day, the rail freight terminal will be a blot on the landscape, a carbuncle which will have a devastating effect both on St Stephen parish and the rest of the district.”

St Albans council is awaiting advice on whether to make a legal challenge against the decision and the county council still has to decide whether to sell the site, which it owns, to Helioslough.

Cllr Freeman said the parish council and residents still could not understand how the Secretary of State could support an SRFI on a Green Belt site, particularly as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) talked about the need to retain the openness of the Green Belt .

He went on: “This is not only going to have an impact on the Green Belt but will also impact on all residents and roads.

“How they can say there will be no impact on the roads I don’t know.

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“Any incidents on the M1, M25 or even the A1 mean all traffic goes through here and snarls up our roads.

“The roads are up to full capacity and the fact that there is now going to be how many more lorries is absolutely shocking.”

Cllr Freeman said he would like to see St Albans council engage in talks with the county council about alternative uses for the site.

Currently two schemes are being bandied around – one for housing from Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Kerry Pollard and a second from St Albans City FC which would incorporate a new stadium with housing.

Cllr Freeman commented: “I know it is Green Belt but one has to be realistic and it won’t be returned to what it was which was agricultural land.

“The district council is being pushed to meet housing demands and we could put housing, a primary school and playing fields there.”

He pointed out that traffic would then be mostly cars and not on the roads 24 hours a day as lorries and vans would be if the SRFI was built.

He went on: “It would be the lesser of two evils and you wouldn’t get the noise and light pollution.”

He added: “We would urge the district council to engage in talks with the county council so some kind of compromise can be reached about future use of the land.

“If both parties are engaged in discussions, Helioslough will have a battle on their hands.”

St Albans council is still discussing its position with its legal advisers following the granting of planning permission for the SRFI. A decision will be taken on whether to take any further action through the courts before the deadline of August 22 for commencing any further proceeedings. See pages 10-11 for readers’ letters about the rail freight decision.