'Flawed' case for St Albans rail freight depot
AN alternative sites document intended to show that Radlett Airfield is the best place for a rail freight depot is deeply flawed in several respects according to countryside campaigners. The Hertfordshire Society – the local branch of the Campaign to Prot
AN alternative sites document intended to show that Radlett Airfield is the best place for a rail freight depot is deeply flawed in several respects according to countryside campaigners.
The Hertfordshire Society - the local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) - has been studying the alternative sites assessment produced on behalf of Helioslough in support of its planning application for a Strategic Rail Freight Depot (SRFI) on the Green Belt site in Park Street.
They have found it to be flawed in terms of its methodology, its lack of objectiveness and its conclusion that Radlett Airfield is the only suitable site in the north-west sector of the M25.
Helioslough came back to the district council with a second application for the site after the-then Secretary of State Hazel Blears ruled that she might have been minded to approve the initial application after last year's public inquiry had the company done more work to show no alternative suitable site existed.
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The new application, which is fundamentally the same as the original, is for 3.5 million sq ft of warehousing in five buildings - one of which would be larger than Terminal Five at Heathrow - with frequent trains coming in and out and an increased number lorries on local roads.
St Albans council had received just under 900 objections when the consultation period formally closed last week but many more have come in since.
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CPRE Herts honorary director Kevin Fitzgerald said this week: "Helioslough clearly set out to try to demonstrate that their site is the best and have failed miserably.
"There are other potential sites, some of which are already in the planning process, that would score more highly than the Radlett site if the criteria were applied differently.
"Rather than accept that these other sites are genuine competitors to their own proposal, Helioslough are suggesting that they could be developed as complementary sites to Radlett. On that basis we could end up with several rail freight interchanges in the sub-region."
He went on: "The Radlett site suffers from a number of operational disadvantages that Helioslough have tried to play down. It is too constricted by the M25 and A414 to allow straightforward rail access, the Midland main line on which it is situated is not the most strategic route nationally and its loading gauge is not big enough to accommodate modern European containers."
CPRE expects St Albans council to once again turn down the application and that Helioslough will again appeal to the Secretary of State.
Mr Fitzgerald added: "This is just planning by appeal. Government policy is that there should be three or four SRFIs near the M25 around London. The regional assemblies for the South East and the East of England in their recent plans failed to identify any preferred broad locations for these SRFIs. As a result, it is being left to developers to try to reach the winning post ahead of their rivals.