Outrage as developers plan to try again to build giant rail-freight depot

PUBLISHED: 10:43 13 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

A computer-generated image of the proposed rail-freight depot

A computer-generated image of the proposed rail-freight depot

DEVELOPERS Helioslough are coming back with a new application for a giant rail freight depot in Park Street early in the New Year.

The company have taken the first step in submitting the new application within weeks of Hazel Blears, Secretary of State fo

DEVELOPERS Helioslough are coming back with a new application for a giant rail freight depot in Park Street early in the New Year.

The company have taken the first step in submitting the new application within weeks of Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, turning down their first bid to build the terminal on Green Belt land on the former Radlett Airfield.

They have sent an environmental scoping report to St Albans District Council and have confirmed that a new planning application will follow.

The reason for their action is that while Ms Blears did not support the appeal, she refused it on one major ground only - that Helioslough had not done sufficient work on establishing whether there were alternative sites for a strategic rail freight depot in the south east.

The district council, supported by Herts County Council, the East of England Regional Assembly, First Capital Connect and the Highways Agency, unanimously refused the original application from Helioslough and took the issue to a seven-week public inquiry earlier this year which cost council tax payers nearly £400,000.

And while Ms Blears concluded that the terminal would constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt, contribute to urban sprawl and have an impact on the historic city of St Albans, she maintained that such harm could have been outweighed had Helioslough demonstrated the lack of suitable alternative sites in the south east.

Simon Hoare on behalf of Helioslough said the methodology in their alternative site survey had fallen down but he maintained that the conclusions reached were correct.

He said the inspector agreed that Park Street was the most suitable site within the north-west quadrant of the M25 but that it wasn't proved in a clear, robust and conclusive manner.

Mr Hoare confirmed the proposal would remain the same and said: "We have put a huge amount of money into this and a vast amount of time and energy has been expended over the last five years on this proposal. If we didn't feel that this was an issue that we couldn't nail, we wouldn't be resubmitting."

The district council's planning portfolio holder Cllr Chris Brazier said if the new application was the same size he would consider it to have the same impact and he believed any planning committee would probably come to the same conclusion.

Cathy Bolshaw, who spearheaded STRiFE, the campaign against the proposal, said: "We are obviously extremely disappointed. But we have fought it off once and we will fight it again as long and as hard as we need to."

St Albans MP Anne Main called the news "outrageous" and said local people now faced the prospect of another expensive fight which would bring "huge amounts of stress".

She continued: "It is obscene that the developer is allowed to nonchalantly decide that they will submit again for the same site so soon after the refusal. The last fight cost our council a huge amount of money and this announcement will beggar the St Albans taxpayers whose council tax bills are already high enough."

Mrs Main believes Helioslough are worried about another developer getting permission to build a similar scheme on another site first and pointed out that Sundon Quarry in Luton had already been earmarked.

She insisted Helioslough should have conducted the work properly the first time around and added: "This is the wrong economic climate to be putting forward this plan once again, and this reeks of the developer trying to force through a plan in a community that is tired of fighting."

The Lib-Dem Parliamentary candidate for St Albans, Sandy Walkington, said: "It is a rotten Christmas present for everyone in Park Street and the southern part of St Albans district. Helioslough are just showing contempt for local people. There will rightly be a cry of rage from everyone that they are just planning to drive a coach and horses through the planning inquiry outcome and ride roughshod over local opinion.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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