‘Folly’ of Radlett rail freight site

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The ‘economic folly’ of siting a rail freight depot in Park Street instead of Sundon in Luton has been highlighted by St Albans MP Anne Main following a parliamentary debate last week.

She had co-sponsored a debate on planning, housing supply and the countryside in which she raised the importance of localism and the economic sense of placing rail freight in Sundon, not on the former Radlett Airfield.

Afterwards, she wrote to the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, and the Chancellor, George Osborne, to highlight the material planning changes that had occurred since Mr Pickles was ‘minded to’ approve the Helioslough scheme last December.

She pointed out in the debate and in her subsequent letters that since December last year Mid Beds Council has done a site assessment on a Rail Freight Interchange (RFI) at Sundon in which it found that it would be a significant boost to the local economy.

The site assessment also highlighted the need for an A6-M1 bypass to make the proposal workable and since the assessment that bypass had been given the go ahead with work beginning next year.

Work is also nearing completion on a freight loop near the site, adding to the already superior freight infrastructure there.

Many of the MPs in their contributions to the debate said that local communities were left feeling bulldozed by developers and felt that the localism agenda had been lost. Endorsing those sentiments, Mrs Main pointed out that Mid Beds wanted an RFI whereas St Albans was firmly against it.

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Afterwards she said: “I do not think that the Minister picked up on the frustration in the room; we are feeling overrun by developers. Apart from Helioslough’s desire to cash in, there is no reason why you would place this massive piece of infrastructure in Radlett and not Sundon. In terms of logistics, sustainability and economic growth

“Sundon is the obvious choice for rail freight and most importantly it is wanted by the local community; surely that is what the localism agenda ought to be about.”

Since the debate Mr Boles has invited MPs at the debate and a representative from their councils to have a meeting with him to discuss the issues raised. Mrs Main will be offering this to St Albans council.