Likely delay on Radlett rail freight site land sale

Put the Brakes on Freight

Put the Brakes on Freight - Credit: Archant

EARLY indications are that the county council will delay a decision about the sale of land in Park Street to rail freight developers Helioslough.

Pressure is growing on the county council not to sell Radlett Airfield to Helioslough in the wake of the ruling by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles that he is minded to allow the massive Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) to go ahead.

Although three landowners, including the Earl of Verulam’s Gorhambury Estates, own land on which the SRFI would be built, the freehold of Radlett Airfield on which five large warehouses and rail infrastructure will be constructed is in the county council’s ownership.

The issue has already been before a cabinet panel meeting at County Hall last week and next week it will go to the cabinet itself followed by a full county council meeting on Wednesday.

Despite the fact that Helioslough has reminded the county council that it has a duty to “maximise the value of the land”, council leader Robert Gordon is proposing that no decision is made before the conclusion of legal action. It follows St Albans council’s plan to go to Judicial Review over Mr Pickles’s decision in December not to go ahead with a conjoined inquiry into the Park Street SRFI and another in Colnbrook, Slough.

It was only a week later that the Secretary of State came back with his decision that he was minded to give the go ahead to the Helioslough scheme subject to planning agreements being reached.

Cllr Gordon’s proposal recognises the strength of opposition in the local area to the SRFI in Park Street and reiterates the county council’s view that as highways authority, the local road network is not adequate to the extra road traffic that the depot would generate.

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He is proposing that no decision should be taken about the sale or lease of the county council’s landholding before “the conclusion of any relevant legal action”.

n A petition opposing the sale of Radlett Airfield to Helioslough is going to be available on St Albans market this Saturday as the quest to reach 10,000 signatures continues.

A paper copy of the petition, which now has around 7,800 signatures, is in The Boot pub in Market Place and the campaign group STRiFE – Stop the Rail Freight Exchange – is urging as many people as possible to go in and sign it. If the 10,000 signature target is reached, not only will it trigger a debate on the issue at the full county council meeting on March 26, but it would also make history as the first petition with that number of signatures to go to County Hall.

The petition will be around the market from 9.30am to 3pm on Saturday and STRiFE is urging any other premises which could keep a paper copy of the petition to email