‘Eden Project’ scheme mooted for St Albans rail freight site

Mike Wakely's drawing of proposed scheme for SRFI site

Mike Wakely's drawing of proposed scheme for SRFI site - Credit: Archant

An ambitious Eden-type project, thousands of new homes and a re-established railway station is the vision of a St Albans councillor for the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

Cllr Mike Wakely, who is the partner with responsibility for project design and management with a London firm of civil and structural engineering consultants, has come up with an alternative scheme for the site which has planning permission for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI).

His vision is the antithesis of an SRFI with its five enormous warehouses, potential disruption to the Thameslink line and additional heavy lorries on local roads.

It involves an area three times the size of the Eden Project in Cornwall encased between four 40-storey glass towers providing up to 2,500 new homes.

He is also proposing that the redundant Napsbury Station is reopened which would mean residents benefiting from better transport links.

He believes the project, which would also have vertical farm areas augmented by LED lights to provide tomatoes and greens 12 months of the year as well as letting natural light into the core, would act as an international Herts showcase of sustainability

In addition the site could include land for a viable Harperbury secondary school and a lake swimming pool in the tropical area of the dome to compensate for the fact that one could not be built in the recently-completed Cotlandswick leisure centre in London Colney.

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Cllr Wakely said the scheme was totally viable engineering-wise and also presented a financially viable alternative to the SRFI scheme with the apartments in the towers providing a five-year housing supply on their own and the new station serving the south of the district.

He anticipated that a number of partners could come forward, some local and others national and international.

Cllr Wakely said this week: “I feel from my heart that the rail freight scheme is wrong. I have just back from Daventry [where there is an SRFI] and it is an absolute nightmare.”

He felt it was necessary to ‘think outside the box’ to come up with an alternative proposal to the SRFI which has drawn waves of opposition from across the district for the last decade.

Cllr Wakely pointed out that with the council’s planning blueprint, the draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) in disarray, his scheme would put less strain on the Green Belt and go some way to overcoming the SLP Inspector’s doubts about the future expansion of St Albans in terms of housing numbers.

He added: “With the SLP in trouble we need to pull out the stops somehow.”

He has run the idea past fellow Conservative district councillors and leader of the county council, Robert Gordon, and is now seeking the views of local residents. He joked: “No-one has said I am utterly mad.”