Developer accused of ‘bully boy tactics’ in Radlett rail freight fight

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rail freight logo - Credit: Archant

WOULD-BE rail freight developers Helioslough have been condemned for using bully boy tactics in their bid to push ahead with developing Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

The company has urged Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to ignore the fact that St Albans council is going to Judicial Review over the issue of a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) being built on the land in Park Street.

Helioslough wants the Secretary of State to push ahead with a final decision on the scheme within the next three week.

A week after saying he had decided not to proceed with a conjoined public inquiry into the Park Street scheme and one at Colnbrook in Slough, Mr Pickles announced in late December that he was “minded” to give Helioslough permission for the Radlett Airfield SRFI subject to planning agreements being reached.

St Albans council has now applied for a Judicial Review into Mr Pickles’ decision not to go ahead with a conjoined inquiry and Herts county council, as owners of the former airfield, have agreed not to proceed any further with its possible disposal or planning agreements until the outcome is known.

Helioslough’s legal team has written to Mr Pickles saying their client is, “no longer prepared to countenance any further delay” in issuing a decision on the planning appeal and describes the Judicial Review proceedings as “spoiling and misconceived”.

They argue that there is no legitimate basis for further delay in issuing permission and every reason to conclude that awaiting the Judicial Review outcome will, “simply prolong the procedural morass which has plagued this application to date through no fault of our client.”

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They then refer to what they describe as two key government announcements – one that the planning system should work proactively to support economic growth and PM David Cameron’s comment at the Tory Party conference last year about “stifling bureaucracy”.

St Albans MP Anne Main has blasted Helioslough for its attitude and has written to the Secretary of State in support of both the county and district council’s position.

She said this week: “It is outrageous that Helioslough expect everyone to dance to their tune. This misguided proposal has been blighting the lives of my constituents for nearly a decade, why the sudden rush?

“I believe the council are fully justified in seeking a Judicial Review and the developer is trying to bully their way to concreting the Green Belt.”

Mrs Main added: “We are trying to fight this monstrosity in every way possible and we will not be intimidated by a developer.”

Campaign group STRiFE – Stop The Rail Freight Exchange – has condemned Helioslough’s “latest tactics in bearing the heavy arm of legal pressure on the Secretary of State” as unfortunate in the light of the fact that the Judicial Review process is underway.

STRiFE is calling for that process to be able to take place unheeded.

n St Albans council’s decision to challenge the conjoined inquiry decision in the High Court has been praised by countryside campaigners, CPRE Herts.

Director Kevin Fitzgerald described the prospect of an SRFI in Park Street as, “the worst intrusion into the Green Belt suffered by Hertfordshire for many years” and warned that the government could not be relied upon to protect the Green Belt despite promises to the contrary.