New public inquiry is rejected by St Albans council in Radlett rail freight row

DESPITE new considerations which have emerged, St Albans council is not seeking to have the public inquiry into a giant rail freight depot in Park Street reopened.

The council has made further representations to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, over the Helioslough proposal for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) at Radlett Airfield.

But even though new aspects have come to light in the last few months, the council has opted to pass them on to Mr Pickles rather than call for the reopening of the public inquiry.

Mr Pickles is seeking views on how he should respond to a High Court Order quashing a decision he took last year to dismiss a second appeal by Helioslough against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for their SRFI scheme.

The High Court judge found that the he did not properly explain his reasons for disagreeing with his planning inspector’s recommendation to allow the SRFI to be built and the matter has now been referred back to the Secretary of State.

A specialist report on the rail issues of the scheme, which has been passed on to the Secretary of State, suggests that a number of new issues have come to light which show that Colnbrook in Slough would be a preferable site for a SRFI.

And even though Slough Borough Council has turned down the Colnbrook scheme, the impact on the Green Belt would be less than in Park Street and an SRFI there would be rail connected from the outset which would not be the case at Radlett Airfield.

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Cllr Teresa Heritage, the council’s portfolio holder for planning and conservation, said: “After the decision by the High Court to quash the Secretary of State’s decision not to grant planning permission, we said that we would be proactive in making our submissions and that is what we have done here.

“We have provided a full and detailed response to the questions raised by the Secretary of State in his letter dated September 15. We have made legal submissions regarding the conditions and a Section 106 undertaking put forward by Helioslough. We have also identified a number of changes in the circumstances which have occurred since the close of the public inquiry in relation to rail freight and policy issues.”

She added: “The reports submitted by our experts indicate that an alternative rail freight site at Colnbrook near Slough would be preferred over the Park Street site.”

Last week two local Lib Dems called for the inquiry to be reopened on the grounds of change of circumstance. Parliamentary spokesman Sandy Walkington and former councillor David Parry cited the impact of the M25 widening and the support for an SRFI in Sundon, Bedfordshire, as reasons for the inquiry to be reconvened.