Eric Pickles under fire over Radlett rail freight policy

Put the Brakes on Freight

Put the Brakes on Freight - Credit: Archant

GREEN Belt support from Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles has led to him being branded two faced by a leading anti rail freight depot campaigner.

Lib Dem councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington has accused Mr Pickles – who has said he is “minded” to approve the Helioslough application for a massive rail freight terminal on the former Radlett Airfield in the Green Belt – of being the “Minister for Forked Tongues”.

It follows a speech Mr Pickles made at this year’s annual conference of the Royal Town Planning Institute in which the Secretary of State commented: “You can plan for growth but not at any price, so we have been very clear that we must have secure safeguards to protect the Green Belt, that vital green lung which prevents urban sprawl.

“Sometimes I feel politicians in particular forget that it is there, not simply for the beautiful landscapes, but to keep conurbations from running into each other and to protect the nature of what we call home.”

Mr Walkington said: “How hollow these words sound following Mr Pickles’s decision to stab St Albans and Park Street in the back over the freight terminal.

“They say judge a person by his words not deeds. How true.

“Mr Pickles likes telling people to ‘man up’.

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“Well he should man up and admit that when it comes to the Green Belt, he simply doesn’t mean what he says.”

St Albans council is currently in the middle of legal action against Mr Pickles’ department after the Secretary of State decided last September not to go ahead with a conjoined public inquiry into the scheme for Radlett Airfield and another potential site in Colnbrook, Slough.

It was just days after that when Mr Pickles announced that he was “minded” to approve the Helioslough rail freight application subject to agreement on planning conditions – even though it has twice been turned down on appeal.

The district council’s initial application for a Judicial Review was unsuccessful but it has now been given a provisional date of August 30 in the High Court for an oral hearing before a High Court judge.

A bid by Helioslough to get a Judicial Review to force Mr Pickles to make a final decision on the scheme was also unsuccessful and the company is not taking it any further.

n BPA Pipelines are carrying out maintenance work to a pipeline immediately adjacent to the county-council owned site earmarked for the rail freight depot.

A large crane and lorries were spotted on the site but the county council confirmed yesterday that they were nothing to do with Helioslough.

A county council spokesperson explained: “Their only reasonable means of access for the size of machinery required for the repair work is via the former airfield as the machinery is too big for their normal access track.”