New hope in battle against rail-freight depot

PUBLISHED: 12:06 14 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 06 May 2010

A computer generated design showing what the Park Street rail freight depot would look like

A computer generated design showing what the Park Street rail freight depot would look like

FURTHER arguments against building a giant rail freight terminal at Park Street have been lodged with the Secretary of State by St Albans District Council (SADC) because a similar scheme has already been given the go-ahead in Kent. When the planning inqui

FURTHER arguments against building a giant rail freight terminal at Park Street have been lodged with the Secretary of State by St Albans District Council (SADC) because a similar scheme has already been given the go-ahead in Kent.

When the planning inquiry into Helioslough's proposals to build a 3.5-million-square-feet terminal on Green Belt land on the former Radlett Aerodrome site started, the outcome of a similar appeal concerning a development in Bexley had not been decided.

The district council which refused the planning application for the Park Street project, argued that Helioslough's claims that a rail freight terminal was urgently needed around London would be undermined if planning permission for the Green Belt site in Bexley was granted.

The council asked planning inspector Andrew Phillipson, who heard both appeals, to keep the inquiry open until the result of the Bexley inquiry was released, but he refused the application.

However he did agree that SADC could submit further representations to Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, once the Bexley appeal was determined.

In January, Hazel Blears accepted Mr Phillipson's recommendation to overturn the decision of two Kent councils to refuse Prologis permission to build the two-million-square-feet depot in Bexley.

Mr Phillipson felt that the proposals for the site in Bexley provided the very special circumstances required to justify building on the Green Belt.

Just before Christmas, he finished hearing evidence in the seven-week inquiry into Helioslough's proposal to build on the former aerodrome site.

If approved, it would consist of five huge warehouses with 20-metre-high lighting masts and parking for more than 2,000 vehicles, along with a potential new bypass for Park Street.

SADC have now submitted further representations which argue that the site in Bexley further reduces the need for another rail freight terminal near London, especially as there is also one in Daventry.

They have also made a number of points demonstrating why Bexley was more suitable for such a development than Park Street.

While the inspector found that the Bexley site would cause no material harm to living conditions, SADC argue the Helioslough proposal would cause significant noise effects on local residents.

The inspector also decided that the Bexley site would cause some impact on nature conservation and biodiversity but that these could be dealt by conditions. However SADC argue the effects at the Park Street site would be permanent and substantial.

It was also undisputed that the Bexley proposal would bring strong socio-economic benefits but a strong case SADC put forward was that no benefit could be reaped from such a site in St Albans due to low unemployment.

The district council's planning portfolio holder, Chris Brazier, said he was more optimistic about the results of the inquiry since the Bexley approval but is still concerned that the inspector discounted the Green Belt argument.

He is confident that the council put forward a strong case in the inquiry but they have already agreed they are prepared to take the matter to a judicial review if the inspector finds in favour of Helioslough.

A decision is expected in October.

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