St Albans rail freight developers try to influence council over housing sites

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street - Credit: Archant

Rail freight developers have strongly advised against building houses on the Park Street site.

In a letter to St Albans district council (SADC), HelioSlough has argued including the former Radlett Airfield site in the draft Local Plan would cause the whole document to be “inherently unsound”.

Instead, the developers would like to build a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the 100 hectares of Green Belt.

The SRFI plans have been highly contested - they were taken to High Court by SADC, continually scrutinised by St Albans MP Anne Main, and the catalyst behind a campaign group called STRiFE (Stop The Rail Freight Exchange).

However, SADC’s new Local Plan provided a glimmer of hope for protesters when landowners Herts county council submitted the site as a possible 2,000 home development.

Despite this, HelioSlough are forging on with their SRFI plans, recently gaining approval for the design, layout, access, and infrastructure specifications.

In the letter, HelioSlough director Gareth Osborn said: “Whilst I recognise that the provision of housing is important I would point out that this type of development can be carried out across a range of locations and does not have the same site specific requirements as an SRFI.”

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Mr Osborn concluded by “respectfully” asking that the site is not pursued as a housing development.

Planning portfolio holder for SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, said: “SADC consulted with residents, and residents have very clearly said that they want the least harm done to Green Belt because Green Belt is close to their hearts. At the same time, residents recognise the need for more housing, particularly small family houses, starter homes for young people and affordable homes.

“We are carrying out a process and we will be doing that on planning criteria with a view to delivering the Government’s required housing numbers and any sites brought forward will be expected to bring benefits to the community it wants to serve.”

St Albans MP Anne Main backs housing on the site: “I have always said this is a wholly inappropriate site for a rail freight interchange. The need for housing in the district is obvious and we need to make those tough decisions. I am extremely pleased that this site will be considered for housing.”