Park Street rail freight campaigners urge county council not to sell of the 'family silver'
PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 February 2016
You don't have to sell - that is the message from the anti rail freight action group STRiFE to the county council over the future of the former Radlett Airfield.
STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange - has been fighting the Helioslough scheme to build a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the 119-hectare Park Street site.
But the action group fears that the head of steam which is building up over the possibility of an alternative development on the site has deflected attention from the fact that the county council does not have to sell the Green Belt land.
The county council, faced with the fact that Helioslough has planning permission to build an SRFI on the site, is marketing the land to see if there are other parties interested in developing it.
And St Albans MP Anne Main believes that should some alternative development be allowed on Radlett Airfield, it could ease the district’s housing needs into the future.
But STRiFE points out that the county council is not obligated to “sell the family silver”. A spokesperson said: “Just because you have an asset does not mean that you have to sell it – that’s why it is still an asset.”
The action group, which admits it understands why the county council has put the land on the open market, has always been committed to preserving Radlett Airfield as Green Belt.
To that end, it is urging the county council to retain its Green Belt status and not become fixated on its duty to get the best sum for the site if it is sold.
STRiFE hopes that should potential proposals come forward for the land, a new ‘green’ initiative could be around the corner.
Among possible uses suggested in the county council’s invitation to developers to submit expressions of interest for the site are for residential purposes, a solar park or a hospital.
St Albans council’s planning portfolio holder, Cllr Julian Daly, said this week that even though permission has been given by the Secretary of State for the building of an SRFI, regarded as a national infrastructure issue, the site was still designated as Green Belt.
It had been assessed as a potential housing site when the council’s planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan (SLP) had been worked up, but it was not regarded as one of the least worst sites to be taken out of the Green Belt for that purpose.
He pointed out that every planning application was assessed on its own merits and there was nothing to stop a developer submitting a scheme for Radlett Airfield. But any such application would have to go to the Secretary of State because of the site’s Green Belt designation.
Cllr Daly added that if developers came up with a proposal to build in the Green Belt, they had to demonstrate very special circumstances to allow it. Once incorporated in the SLP, they would have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances which amounted to a once-in-a-generation development.