Hertfordshire county council agreement over rail freight strategy

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rail freight logo - Credit: Archant

ALL-party agreement not to take any action over the site of a proposed rail freight depot in Park Street until all legal avenues have been exhausted was agreed by the county council this week.

In an effort to beef up opposition to the Helioslough scheme for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield, all parties agreed to put any issues such as the potential sale or lease of the land on the back burner for the time being.

It is to allow St Albans council to apply to the High Court for a Judicial Review into a decision in early December by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for communities and local government, not to go ahead with a proposed conjoined inquiry into the SRFI proposal for Park Street with another for Colnbrook in Slough.

Within a week of that notification, Mr Pickles said he was “minded” to approve the Radlett Airfield scheme subject to planning agreements between St Albans council, the county council and Helioslough.

Lib Dem county councillor for the St Stephen division which takes in Park Street, Aislinn Lee, who seconded the motion which was agreed by all councillors at Tuesday’s meeting, said the critical part of the wording was that cabinet was being asked not to make or authorise any decision to enter into a planning obligation or to sell or lease the county council’s landholding before the conclusion of any relevant legal action.

The county council owns Radlett Airfield, the part of the overall site where the majority of construction would take place including five massive warehouses and the rail link.

Cllr Lee said: “We want continuing cross-party support in opposing this development. We wanted to beef it up and make sure that any agreements with Helioslough are not reached until all legal challenges have been finalised.”

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She went on: “The county council needs more time to find out what would be needed if the worst case scenario happens and to have enough evidence to substantiate a firm position by the county council election in May.”

She warned that other issues could emerge such as a Compulsory Purchase Order for Radlett Airfield but added: “I think this is a major step forward because it made it very clear that the county council will hold back from agreement with anyone until all the legal challenges have been exhausted.”

Leader of the council, Robert Gordon, said: “Members of the county council are well aware of local anxiety about this application but recognises that it is not yet in a position to make a fully informed rational decision about this very important matter.”