Radlett action group’s anger over rail freight site lobbying

ANTI-railfreight action group STRiFE has spoken of its shock and outrage at revelations that the Transport Minister both met with a Helioslough lobbyist and accepted a document in support of the controversial scheme for Radlett Airfield.

St Albans MP Anne Main blew the whistle on the meeting and document exchange between the minister, Theresa Villiers, and Simon Hoare of Helioslough last week.

She was prompted to do so after the cancellation of a planned meeting on the issue she and fellow Hertsmere MP James Clappison were due to have with Transport Secretary Justine Greening at short notice because it was “inappropriate.”

STRiFE – Stop The Rail Freight Exchange – which was set up to fight the plan by Helioslough to develop a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) in Park Street, has called the lobbying “totally unacceptable behaviour.”

Its legal advisers have written to the Department for Communities and Local Government seeking details of all meetings between Helioslough or their representatives with government ministers and their advisers together with copies of all written communications that have been passed.

A spokesperson for STRiFE said this week that two immediate concerns had arisen from last week’s revelation which came to light after an announcement from the Department for Communities that a decision on the Park Street SRFI by Secretary of State Eric Pickles had been put back until June.

One was the fact that the lobbying was undertaken at the same time as Mr Pickles was re-determining the SRFI appeal for which only written representations on specific matters relevant to the appeal were invited from interested parties.

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He went on: “It is now clear that whilst participating in this open and transparent process, Helioslough also undertook a lobbying campaign, a campaign which included an additional document and all without the knowledge of the other parties.”

The second concern was that the lobbying actions had preceded a joint statement last November by the Transport and Communities Ministers concerning SRFIs in general which highlighted a perceived demand for them, especially in the south east, and pledged that the government would “unblock” their development.

STRiFE has consistently questioned the perceived demand, particularly as it is now five years since approval was granted for an SRFI in Howbury, South East London, yet no work has begun.

The spokesman added: “As yet we do not know the details of the lobbying that has taken place nor do we know whether it has had any marked effect. However we do consider the lobbying to be totally unacceptable behaviour that flies in the face of natural justice.”