No retreat, no surrender in fight over Park Street rail freight scheme

Rail freight meeting at Greenwood Park community centre

Rail freight meeting at Greenwood Park community centre - Credit: Archant

Residents vow to fight on against rail freight scheme despite recent setbacks.

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign - Credit: Archant

Legal action over the granting of planning permission for a massive rail freight depot on a Green Belt site may be over but local residents have made it clear that the fight goes on.

A recent information meeting in Chiswell Green on the up-to-date situation with the bid by Helioslough to build a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on Radlett Airfield in Park Street was full to capacity with many saying that they had not realised the full impact the development could have on the St Albans district.

The ball is now in the court of Herts county council (HCC) which, as part owner of the former airfield, has to decide whether or not to sell the land to Helioslough.

Andy Love, who organised the meeting which had a panel comprising St Albans MP Anne Main, county councillor Sandy Walkington, Cathy Bolshaw from pressure group STRiFE and former St Albans planning committee chairman, David Parry, said it was overwhelmingly clear that those who attended were determined to carry on the fight to prevent an SRFI being built there.

They were united in their opposition to the SRFI or any similar rail freight scheme being built there and wanted to see the land used for purposes which would not compromise the former airfield’s Green Belt status and values.

He went on: “The land should be viewed as an asset and an asset of increasing value.”

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Among the many issues that had been raised at the meeting was the effect an SRFI would have on air quality in St Albans and Herts as a whole and for thorough research on the traffic implications of such a scheme to be prepared for county councillors before any decision about selling the land was taken.

While St Albans council has been pursing its legal action against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government over the granting of planning permission to Helioslough, several other schemes have been mooted for the land.

A housing scheme has been put forward by former city MP Kerry Pollard and St Albans City FC has been investigating the possibility of a new stadium on the site supported by housing.

But the county council has a ‘fiduciary duty’ to get the best deal from the sale of the site. Andy said that if county councillors were advised by their legal counsel to actively seek alternative proposals for its future use, those at the meeting wanted them to be ‘signficantly less damaging to this area of Green Belt and the well-being of residents.”

He went on: “It was also raised that should HCC seek to sell this important area of Green Belt land that they should perform an inventory of all HCC-owned land and place these up for sale.”

Andy said that in order to ensure that the county council knew the strength of opposition to the scheme, he was looking at hold a big event in the city under the banner of stopping the SRFI. He added: “It would unite people and might turn heads at the county council.”c