Radlett rail freight campaigners fighting back at court ban

SOLICITORS representing the action group set up to fight rail freight proposals for Park Street are contesting a move to prevent them appearing at a High Court hearing.

Describing the grounds for objection by developers HelioSlough to the participation of STRiFE – Stop the Rail Freight Exchange – in a High Court hearing next year being brought against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles – as “technical and erroneous”, the action group’s solicitors have asked the company to withdraw their objection.

STRiFE was formed to fight the proposals for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on Radlett Airfield and has been at the forefront of the campaign against the scheme.

It had been appealing for funds to pay for “interested party” representation at the High Court hearing when it learned that HelioSlough wanted to block its participation.

The action is being brought against the Secretary of State under the Town and Country Planning Act following his decision to overturn his planning inspector’s recommendation following the second public inquiry into the scheme.

Mr Pickles refused permission on the grounds that a similar proposal in Colnbrook, Slough, could potentially meet the need for an SRFI without causing so much harm to the Green Belt.

HelioSlough spokesman Simon Hoare said last week that the action in the High Court was against the decision by the Secretary of State and not an opportunity to rehash old arguments surrounding the planning application.

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He said the company could not instruct STRiFE not to appear but they could draw the court’s attention to recent judgements on the basis that HelioSlough’s argument was with the Secretary of State and not with STRiFE or anyone else.

In a letter to HelioSlough’s representatives challenging the move, Howard Wayne of STRiFE’s solicitors Wayne Leighton, says that the premise of the HelioSlough objection is “simply wrong in law” and cites a 2006 case to show that the grounds used by the company were not intended to cover public law cases.

He points out that given STRiFE’s involvement in both the 2007 and 2009 public inquiries into the SRFI and in particular its evidence and submissions at both, it would be desirable to make the action group a party to proceedings.

He added: “Your approach would deny STRiFE the opportunity to participate at all in proceedings in which it is profoundly and directly interested and would risk the court having an incomplete understanding of the evidence on which the decision under challenge was based.”