St Albans and Radlett MPs urge rail bosses to rethink support of rail freight terminal

Left to right: Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, Claudio Duran, St Albans MP Anne Main and Jock Wright at

Left to right: Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, Claudio Duran, St Albans MP Anne Main and Jock Wright at a meeting about the SRFI earlier this month. - Credit: Archant

MPs for St Albans and Radlett have written to Network Rail urging them to rethink supporting the construction of a controversial rail freight terminal on the Green Belt.

In Network Rail’s response to the revised draft of the St Albans Local Plan the company opposed the building of new houses on the Park Street Green Belt site, instead of the proposed Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI).

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, whose constituency covers Radlett, wrote to Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines and urged him to reconsider his opposition.

He said: “I am disappointed that Network Rail have opposed the use of the proposed rail freight site for much needed homes.

“Following the rejection of the first St Albans Local Plan by the Planning Inspectorate it is only right that the council now look at new ways to meet the growing demand for housing in the area.

“The proposed garden village would be a potentially effective way of delivering this and while it sits within the Green Belt, it is ridiculous that the land can have planning permission for a freight terminal, but not homes.

“St Albans council is right to be considering it closely and I have therefore written to Network Rail, urging them to re-think their position.”

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In 2014 former communities secretary Eric Pickles gave developers HelioSlough permission for the SRFI to be built on land currently owned by Herts county council. St Albans district council appealed the decision in High Court and lost.

The site has since been earmarked by the district council’s Local Plan for 2,000 homes, despite legal threats from HelioSlough.

St Albans MP Anne Main is a vocal opponent of SRFI, and echoed Mr Dowden’s comments.

She said: “It is completely obvious to almost everyone involved in this issue that what we need in this area is housing. Not an outdated rail freight site that will do nothing but impact on passenger services and potentially add to congestion on the roads surrounding it.

“It is disappointing that Network Rail have registered their opposition to the plan. I hope that St Albans will continue to press ahead with housing on that site. The garden village proposal is overwhelmingly the best use of that land for local people and I hope it can be delivered.”