Is it time to take Radlett airfield site out of the Green Belt?

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Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign - Credit: Archant

The demand for new residential and high-quality office space could be met on the former Radlett Airfield if St Albans council removes the site’s Green Belt designation.

That is being urged by Oliver Dowden, MP for Hertsmere, who has met Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and sought its support for the proposed SRFI site to be used for much-needed housing and commercial space to support the county’s thriving creative industries.

His comments came as the government consultation on its Industrial Strategy highlighted the importance of supporting the creative industries - one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy.

In response to questioning on the strategy from Mr Dowden, Business Secretary Greg Clark agreed that if investment in the film and television industry supply chain was to continue, a ready supply of commercial office space was essential.

Mr Dowden has also responded to a consultation on the LEP’s refreshed Strategic Economic Plan, which provides a blueprint for economic growth up to 2030.

He has suggested the former airfield should be used for new housing to meet growing demand and commercial space to support the new jobs at both Elstree Studios and the Warner Brothers Studio in Leavesden.

The LEP’s strategic economic plan for Herts recognises both studios as a well-established locations for film and television production, which have also seen growth in the video gaming industry.

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The plan also highlights the availability of housing and employment space as one the most significant obstacles to economic growth in the county.

Urging St Albans council to remove the Green Belt designation of this blighted site ‘so that bids to use the land for this purpose can be considered’, Mr Dowden said: ‘We have a particular strength in the creative industries. This is centred around the Elstree Film Studios, which for the last century has been a world renowned location for film and television making – producing titles such as Star Wars, The King’s Speech and The Crown.

“It is supported by BBC Elstree Centre and the nearby Warner Bros Studios Leavesden as well as Elstree University Technical College and the University of Hertfordshire. The industry is forecast to grow and there is significant scope for expansion with new high skilled jobs and investment in the supply chain.”

He went on: “The Business Secretary’s response to my questioning in Parliament and the recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper demonstrates how he shares my view that more high-quality commercial space is needed for the sector to continue to thrive.’

He added: ‘I believe the site near Radlett is well-positioned to meet the demand for new residential and high-quality office space. This would enable Hertfordshire to capitalise on its strength in the creative industries and to meet the high-skilled jobs and housing needs of its residents.”

* Anti rail freight campaigner Andy Love has lodged a petition with St Albans council calling on the Green Belt land in Park Street where the SRFI would be built to be classified as a Strategic Gap.

It follows his submission of a Freedom of Information request to the council in the wake of a government decision to refuse a similar rail freight depot scheme in Colnbrook, Slough because of the damage it would cause to the area’s designated Strategic Gap - the Green Belt land that separates settlement.

He maintains that as the council appears to have no history of Strategic Gaps, an opportunity might have been missed because Radlett Airfield is the last parcel of Green Belt between St Albans and London and stops Radlett, Park Street, Chiswell Green and London Colney from merging.

To date 16 people have signed the petition and 30 are needed for Mr Love to present it to a full meeting of St Albans council. It can be found on the council’s website and runs until next Tuesday, February 7.