Campaigners celebrate – more rail freight decision news

VICTORIOUS campaigners are celebrating this morning after hearing the news that a second planning appeal for a huge rail freight terminal on Green Belt land has been turned down.

As revealed first by the Herts Advertiser website, the news that developers Helioslough have been refused permission to build the enormous 3.5 million square metre depot on the former Radlett Airfield came in just before 11am.

It soon emerged that the planning inspector who heard the inquiry had granted Helioslough’s appeal but Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles overturned his decision.

He argued that the developers had not done enough work on finding alternative sites and raised concerns that Section 106 agreements weren’t in place.

The developers took the district council to a public inquiry for the second time at the end of last year, arguing that the problems behind the reason for refusal following the first appeal in 2007 had been ironed out, including the insufficient alternative sites assessment.

Helioslough argued during the appeal that the terminal was needed to shift freight from the roads onto rail, but campaign group STRiFE and other objectors claimed that it would have created an increase in lorry movements and traffic in general on local roads as the rail paths are not available to service the site.

But in a blow to the district council, which has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds fighting the application, Helioslough have been awarded some costs as the district council raised several reasons for rejection already dismissed in the previous inquiry.

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But planning portfolio holder councillor Chris Brazier said it was money well spent but the council would look to challenge the decision.

St Albans Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for 2010 welcomed the decision to turn down Helioslough’s appeal as a “wonderful tonic” for local residents and a proper reward for all their years of hard work campaigning.

He continued: “Had this awful development gone ahead, it would have irrevocably destroyed the character of our city and district and would have reduced our roads to gridlock. Of course it is disappointing that the inspector did not accept the powerful arguments put forward by the council, by STRiFE and by local residents.

“But on a political level, the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has shown that it understands the importance of Green Belt and that there are alternative sites for rail freight terminals where much less damage would be caused.”

The Herts Advertiser teamed up with STRiFE last year to launch its Put the Brakes on Freight campaign to continuously highlight the devastating implications of the plans getting the go-ahead.

This story will be updated throughout the day as new information comes in so keep checking here for the latest news on the decision.