Legal options explored to fight Radlett rail freight terminal

A PLEDGE that if there is any legal avenue to challenge the rail freight decision it will be taken has come from St Albans council leader, Julian Daly.

Cllr Daly said the council had been in touch with its legal team and counsel about the shock decision from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles shortly before Christmas to give the go ahead for a giant rail freight depot in the Green Belt in Park Street subject to a planning agreement.

But with the intervention of Christmas and New Year, there had been no response yet, he went on, and calls for a special meeting to decide if any further action can be taken would have to go on hold until the legal experts had considered the options.

Cllr Daly confirmed: “We did brief our legal team before Christmas and if there is a legal avenue we will take it.”

He admitted that he had been surprised by Mr Pickles’ decision but put it down to changes economically on the national scene since Helioslough first submitted their scheme for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange on the former Radlett Airfield in 2007.

In November 2011, the Department of Transport came out in support of an expanded network of SRFIs and the-then Secretary of State Justine Greening said they would be “taking measures to unblock the development of strategic rail freight interchanges and unlock the necessary private sector investment in such facilities”.

Cllr Daly said he did not doubt that several government departments had had an input into the decision which has been roundly condemned throughout St Albans and Radlett.

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Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Robert Donald, has called for an urgent meeting of group leaders to be held as soon as possible to discuss the legal options open to challenge the decision.

He went on: “This will include the issue of the Section 106 planning agreement on infrastructure improvements and environmental remedial and mitigation work that the developer has to enter into as the Minister has allowed the appeal subject to this agreement being satisfactorily negotiated.”

Cllr Donald said that as council leader at the time of the original decision that the council should legally defend its refusal of planning permission, he was not going to throw in the towel until every further legal possibility had been exhausted.

Anger over the decision, which will bury the former wartime airfield under an SRFI, a road and other infrastructure, shows no sign of abating.

Cllr Morris Bright, leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, said: “Previously we received more than 150 objections to the scheme and Hertsmere wholeheartedly supported St Albans district council in objecting to the proposals, contributing �30,000 to the cost of their fight against the plans.

“While realistically it is beginning to feel that the Government has slammed the door firmly shut now by taking this decision, we will continue to offer our support to St Albans as they consider their next options.”

And Lib Dem planning spokesman, Cllr Chris Brazier, described the decision as “a tragedy” for the south of the district which had taken a real beating with a composter in South Mimms, a digester in London Colney and Colney Heath, an incinerator bordering Colney Heath and now an SRFI in Park Street.

He added: “With all of the recycling facilities and the rail freight terminal, you will now have over 250,000, possibly more, HGV lorries per annum in and out of the district.”