No surrender in battle to thwart St Albans rail freight scheme

The proposed rail freight site near Park Street, looking towards the A414

The proposed rail freight site near Park Street, looking towards the A414 - Credit: Archant

The fight to prevent a major rail freight interchange being built in the district goes on.

St Albans district council is to seek leave to appeal the dismissal of its recent court challenge against the decision by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to grant permission for Helioslough to develop a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange ((SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

The decision to pursue the court battle was made by the council’s head of legal services, Mike Lovelady, after discussions with the three group leaders and having sought advice from the council’s external legal advisors.

It has been taken even though the Mr Justice Holgate refused to give the district council leave to appeal when he made his ruling in the High Court last month.

But that does not prevent the council going to the Court of Appeal to seek permission to continue arguing its case. If that is unsuccessful it can seek an oral hearing before a Court of Appeal judge but should that fail, there is no further legal action the council can take.

The focus would then be on Herts county council as the owner of land at Radlett Airfield which would have to decide whether or not to sell the site to Helioslough.

Cathy Bolshaw of the campaign group STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange - welcomed the news that the district council would be pursuing its legal action.

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She said: “I am very pleased. This delays things longer and could take us through to the autumn which gives the county council a bit of breathing space.”

She went on: “We all thought the council wouldn’t appeal so we are surprised but it is very reassuring. We are talking to our legal team to see if there is anything we can do to support them.”

Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington also welcomed the council’s decision. He said: “I congratulate the council for steadfastly supporting local residents and fighting for the integrity of our city and district.

“It’s even more important that people continue to sign up to Councillor Jay Baillie’s petition to Herts county council not to sell its land. We have to continue to fight on all fronts if we are to prevail.”

The petition currently has 4,227 signatures and is the largest on the county council’s website.