Land sale key to campaign against Radlett rail freight terminal

Rail freight demonstration

Rail freight demonstration - Credit: Archant

PERSUADING the county council not to sell or lease the former Radlett Airfield to rail freight developers Helioslough is the immediate aim of the pressure group set up to fight the scheme.

The action by STRiFE (Stop The Rail Freight Exchange) in setting up an online petition follows the decision by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles to effectively grant planning permission to Helioslough just before Christmas – a decision which was revealed immediately on the Herts Advertiser website and in the edition of December 27.

And while legal opinion received by STRiFE suggests there might be a case for a Judicial Review over a decision made by Mr Pickles a week prior to that announcement, the campaigners’ priority is to hit their 10,000 signature target on the online petition and trigger a debate at County Hall.

The county council owns the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street and if they were to refuse to sell or lease the site to Helioslough, the scheme for a major terminus and five massive warehouses could not go ahead.

Cathy Bolshaw of STRiFE explained that the petition was urging the county council to maintain its current position and refuse to sell or lease the land.


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10,000 signatures would mean a debate being held at County Hall into the county council’s next step and STRiFE is aiming to present it on February 26.

When quizzed by the Herts Advertiser over recent years, the county council has sat firmly on the fence over the issue of whether it would sell or lease the land to Helioslough.

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Implications

It has always said it would have to consider the potential benefits to Herts as a whole from selling the site rather than just the implications for the St Albans and Hertsmere districts.

Cathy said this week that legal advice obtained by STRiFE suggested that there might be a case to seek a Judicial Review into the decision by Mr Pickles on December 14 not to hold a conjoined inquiry with Colnbrook in Slough, another site where a rail freight depot is being mooted, which his department had originally proposed.

It was barely a week later that Mr Pickles announced that he was minded to give Helioslough planning permission subject to a planning obligation binding all those with an interest in the site.

Cathy said: “We wouldn’t do it [Judicial Review] on our own but it is possible we could go in behind St Albans district council if they decide to go down that route.”

Council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, has already pledged that if there is any legal route to challenge the decision, the council will take it.

In the meantime anger is mounting over Mr Pickles’ decision with the CPRE Herts (Campaign to Protect Rural England) the latest body to hit out at it.

Honorary director Kevin Fitzgerald said: “This appalling news was announced on Friday, December 20, no doubt in the hope that it would be buried in Christmas festivities.

“This cynical action showed utter contempt for the residents of that part of Hertfordshire who have fought long and hard against this nightmare proposal.”

Mr Fitzgerald reiterated Mr Pickles’ own words that it would be an inappropriate development in the Green Belt, would mean a loss of openness, would contribute to urban sprawl and cause harm to the setting of St Albans.

He went on: “He could have added that one of the most congested roads in one of the most congested counties in England will have an additional 3,000-4,000 lorry movements per day from this development.”

And he added: “The opposition to this proposal by both residents and their elected representatives has been sustained and widespread. So much for the Government’s highly-promoted ‘localism’ and its often repeated statement that it will protect the Green Belt.”

n The STRiFE online petition can be found at https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614

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