St Albans and Hertsmere MPs pledge to fight against Radlett freight depot ‘to the bitter end’

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street - Credit: Archant

St Albans and Hertsmere MPs have pledged to continue the fight against a rail freight depot in Radlett, after the district council resigned its conflicting plans for a garden village to be built on the land.

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot - Credit: Archant

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has expressed her dismay at St Albans District Council’s decision to concede the fight against Park Street rail depot, while Conservative councillors claim the withdrawal will be “disastrous for Park Street and commuters”.

Ms Cooper has said SADC was “held hostage by the government’s planning system”, after the council’s Local Plan was halted by concerns raised by the inspector.

The ongoing battle against the freight depot began when the council denied planning permission to applicants HelioSlough. Following this, it was approved on appeal in 2014 by former communities secretary, Eric Pickles.

Attempts by the council to appeal Mr Pickles’ decision at High Court were rejected, however development on the land – owned by Herts County Council – had yet to begin. The plans were met with objections by councillors across party affiliations, residents, former MP Anne Main, as well as Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden.

Oliver Dowden. Picture: Supplied

Oliver Dowden. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

Since then, SADC’s Local Plan included proposals to build 2,000 homes on the former Aerodrome site, with the general consensus being that if the Green Belt had to be used, many would prefer housing.

In a letter responding to the Local Plan inspector’s concerns, the council backed down from its former position of opposing the freight depot, and acknowledged that the housing planned for the Radlett site will need to be located elsewhere in the district so the Local Plan can meet its target of allowing for 14,608 new homes.

READ MORE: ‘We surrender!’ St Albans council concedes fight against Park Street rail freight depot in exchange for Local Plan

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Responding to the news Daisy Cooper commented: “I’m outraged that our local council has been held hostage by the Conservative government planning system.

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, addresses the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live TV

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, addresses the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live TV - Credit: Archant

“In effect, the council has been told to choose between accepting a freight terminal or losing control of deciding where to build homes and this is no choice at all.

“St Albans council has already accepted that development will have to take place on the site, and had opted to build homes instead of a dreadful freight terminal. Now, under the Conservative government’s freight plans, our council is being forced to not only accept the freight terminal but also to find another piece of Green Belt to sacrifice, on which to build the roughly 2,000 homes.

“This assault on our community is unacceptable and I will find ways to fight the government on this to the bitter end.”

MP for Hertsmere, which includes Radlett, and culture secretary Oliver Dowden also expressed disappointment at the green light given to developers.

“I am incredibly disappointed in the decision taken by St Albans District Council to remove the Park Street Garden Village from their Local Plan in favour of this rail freight terminal.

“As I have said many times before, I do not want any developments on Green Belt land. But if it must be developed, it is ludicrous that the land is used for a completely unnecessary rail freight terminal.

“There is an acute need for housing and in efforts to both provide housing and protect the Green Belt, the Park Street Garden Village site was vital.

“I will continue to fight against this rail freight terminal, which would have a detrimental effect on our local area.”

Portfolio holder for planning at SADC, Cllr Jamie Day said: “I understand many will be disappointed with this decision, but we believe it is the only way to proceed that retains St Albans control over the Local Plan process.

“I think the real question here is why the previous Conservative administration thought it could defy both national government and HelioSlough in allocating the site for housing in the draft Local Plan, when it already had planning approval from Conservative party Secretary of State Eric Pickles for Rail Freight despite local wishes.

“The council had already lost a judicial review at the High Court, and further significant costs are being incurred through delay to the Local Plan process. How much more public money should we spend defending what is clearly a lost cause – when council finances are already under severe pressure from the ongoing austerity cuts and now the COVID-19 crisis.”

Conservative leader Mary Maynard added on behalf of the group that this was a “political decision” that will be “disastrous for Park Street, Thameslink commuters and the Green Belt”.