Radlett rail freight campaigners fighting court ban
RAIL freight giant HelioSlough has been accused of trying to prevent the action group STRiFE appearing at a High Court hearing next year into its proposed development at Radlett Airfield.
Using a planning technicality, HelioSlough is contesting STRiFE’s wish to be party to the proceedings, maintaining that the appeal has been served on Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles alone and with St Albans council as the planning authority also invited to attend.
The objection has left members of the action group furious but determined to contest the objection on behalf of the local people they represent.
STRiFE – Stop the Rail Freight Exchange – has been appealing for funds to pay for representation at the hearing brought by HelioSlough in a bid to reverse the decision earlier this year to refuse it permission to build a strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) on the Green Belt site.
The Secretary of State took the unusual step of overruling his planning inspector’s decision and dismissed the second appeal by HelioSlough on the grounds that a similar proposal in Colnbrook, Slough, could potentially meet the need for a rail freight scheme with less harm to the Green Belt.
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HelioSlough then made public its decision to use the Town and Country Planning Act to directly challenge Mr Pickles’ ruling in the High Court in what is likely to be a one- to two-day hearing early next year.
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This week STRiFE heard from their solicitors that HelioSlough was not prepared to accept that the action group should be present at the hearing which could decide the future of the SRFI scheme once and for all.
Cathy Bolshaw of STRiFE said that members were “outraged” at HelioSlough’s stance and could not believe that the action group, as representatives of local people, could not be there.
She said: “We are seeking legal advice on this and will proceed legally accordingly but we see this as a political measure by HelioSlough to try and prevent us from being at the High Court which also begs the question of why do they want to stop us being there.”
She explained that STRiFE would now have to spend the money it had been accruing for the High Court hearing to go to court to contest HelioSlough’s objection to their appearance there and went on: “If we won that they could appeal against us. We believe they are trying to send us down a dark alley.
“Our barrister has never heard of this and is utterly shocked and thinks HelioSlough are wrong.”
Simon Hoare, spokesman for HelioSlough, stressed 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.
He went on: “If you are challenging a decision of the Secretary of State, it is almost common sense not to go over old ground or have another stab at it. It is an opportunity for the Secretary of State represented by Treasury solicitors to address his rationale on reaching his decision.”
He added: “We have no powers to say you can’t come but what we have the right to do is draw the court’s attention to guidance and recent judgements to say on the basis of this our contention is that our argument is with the Secretary of State and not with STRiFE or anyone else.
“We are challenging the Secretary of State’s decision and I am pretty certain that Her Majesty’s Government is strong enough and robust enough to make its own case without having to rely on anyone else.”