Communities secretary urged to think again over St Albans rail freight scheme

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

New Secretary of State Sajid Javid has been urged to reconsider the go ahead for a rail freight interchange in St Albans in the wake of the decision about a similar scheme near Slough.

The call has come from St Albans MP Anne Main after Mr Javid’s predecessor as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clarke, last week dismissed an appeal by Goodman Logistics Development (UK) to build the Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE) at Colnbrook.

Mr Clarke backed the planning inspector who had conducted the public inquiry into the SIFE that the appeal proposal would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt and as such, would be harmful.

He did not accept that the proposal amounted to very special circumstances which would warrant allowing it to be built and ruled that it would conflict with national policies.

After years spent by St Albans council battling the proposal to build a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street, planning permission for the Green Belt site was granted to developers Helioslough in July 2014.

The then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, ruled that the strategic benefits of the scheme outweighed the harm to the landscape - even though he had rejected the SRFI scheme on two previous occasions in 2008 and 2009.

Only a week prior to the granting of planning permission, he had rejected a conjoined public inquiry with Colnbrook which had been proposed because the two schemes were closely interconnected.

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In her appeal to Mr Javid to reconsider the SRFI decision, Mrs Main also referred to a previous ruling from former Communities Secretary Hazel Blears in 2008 that the benefits of the SIFE proposal would not clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt.

The St Albans MP went on: “This shows that whilst railfreight interchanges may be considered within the national framework of policy, the substantial weight of harm that would be inflicted in St Albans and the surrounding areas of Park Street and Radlett would have to be seriously considered.

““It is my strong opinion that it has never been demonstrated that the SRFI proposals in Radlett outweighs the damage that will be inflicted upon these communities by a railfreight terminal.”

Urging reconsideration of the SRFI application, she said there were, ‘clear, concomitant reasons and circumstances’ why the original refusal(s) should have been upheld and the application dismissed.