Herts Ad Comment: Rail freight and election action

STOCK Generic office

STOCK Generic office - Credit: Archant

After years of silence, the first rumblings of activity are starting to be heard over plans for the former Radlett Airfield, long-feared site of an unpopular and unwanted rail freight depot.

Eagle-eyed local residents first spotted the planning notification for details on the proposed country park, which was submitted without fanfare to the district council last week.

So what does it mean? Will the developers be making an imminent offer to Herts County Council to purchase the land, or is this merely a case of getting their affairs in order before finally sounding the death knell for this piece of the Green Belt?

Unsurprisingly, there are still many questions as yet unanswered over the operational viability of the scheme, most prominently being the rail line’s capacity for increased freight usage, something MP Anne Main has been hounding Network Rail to explain for a very long time indeed.

Things are still no clearer following her recent meeting with rail minister Paul Maynard, despite his stated commitment to passenger services, which would unquestionably be disrupted by the output of a rail freight depot.

Network Rail, already the source of so much misery for commuters due to their general inability to maintain the rail line’s infrastructure, are proving just as incompetent when it comes to explaining their plans for running increased freight trains on these tracks.

Similarly, neighbouring schools have been unable to determine what sort of measures will be introduced to protect their pupils from increased lorry movements around the site.

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One man who has absolutely no interest in these issues is the minister responsible for approving the SRFI in the first place, Eric Pickles, as not only has he washed his hands of the whole debacle, but he’s also doing the rest of the world a favour by standing down as an MP.

If he’d only done that three years ago, we’d all be in a better place today. Enjoy your retirement Mr Pickles, try to keep off the cakes eh?

On the subject of elections and MPs standing down, the news this week that Harpenden representative Peter Lilley will also not be standing again has provided the first uncertainty in his constituency’s political future for decades.

Mr Lilley has never been much of an active figure in Harpenden, preferring to focus his attention on Hitchin, but he has always won the support of the electorate regardless. Whether his successor can claim the same loyalty remains to be seen, but we would strongly urge whoever wins this seat to remember that it’s a two-town constituency, and not to spend all of their time in Hitchin at Harpenden’s expense.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring St Albans, the first “big gun” has been wheeled in to join the General Election fight, as Lib Dem leader Tim Farron made an impromptu visit to the city on Wednesday.

His resolute support for candidate Daisy Cooper suggests the party obviously considers the constituency to be one worth fighting, so we are likely to see more leading lights from all political persuasions turning up over the coming weeks.

The election race is heating up from all sides, and we’ve still six weeks to go...