Radlett rail freight decision could go to judicial review

THE decision to give the green light to a massive rail freight depot in Park Street is “flawed” and recent decisions could be the subject of a Judicial Review in the High Court.

St Albans district council has given the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles seven days to respond to their request that he should reconsider his decision of December 14 not to go ahead with a conjoined inquiry into rail freight schemes for the former Radlett Airfield and Colnbrook in Slough.

Less than a week later, Mr Pickles announced that he was “minded” to give planning permission to Helioslough to develop a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the Park Street site subject to legal technicalities. As an interim decision that cannot be challenged at this stage.

If Mr Pickles does not respond over the issue of the conjoined inquiry within seven days, the council has served notice that it will challenge the decision at a Judicial Review.

The council’s argument is that the Secretary of State’s view that he sees, “little reason to conclude that Colnbrook would meet the needs for an SRFI in a less harmful way” than that at Radlett Airfield, is contrary to his earlier positions in 2010 and 2012.

It believes that the decision fails to take into account the lack of any proper and adequate comparative assessment of the relative merits of the two sites and that Mr Pickles’ assessment of the position regarding Colnbrook is entirely inconsistent with his reasoning in his decision of July 2010 to refuse Helioslough planning permission for the Park Street SRFI.

The council also contends that the change of position stands “wholly unexplained” and was reached on “an irrational basis or by taking into account immaterial considerations.”

Most Read

The council’s decision follows the receipt of legal advice which reflects that received by campaign group STRiFE from their legal experts that the decision not to go to a conjoined inquiry could be challenged.

St Albans MP, Anne Main, who has managed to get a Westminster debate next Tuesday, January 29, entitled Protection of the Green Belt and Radlett Aerodrome site, has also backed the council’s decision.

She said: “I completely agree with the council’s decision; there was no explanation of the about turn in the Secretary of State’s position given his strong support for conjoined inquiries mere months before.

“I, along with the council, wrote to the Secretary of State to support conjoined inquiries as we believe that seen side by side it strengthens our argument.

“The Secretary of State said that conjoining the inquiries would, ‘lead to a more coherent and consistent decision-making process overall’ and I agree.”

She added: “I do not understand why he did not follow through with conjoining the inquiries and we have been given no reason why he did not. What changed? I am suspicious that it had more to do with national economic strategy than planning policy.”

Mrs Main pledged that the fight would continue “until the very end” with every avenue explored both inside and outside of Parliament to expose the decision-making process.

• Mr Pickles has agreed to Helioslough’s request for a one-month extension to its “planning obligation” deadline. He originally proposed to allow until February 28 for the Section 106 planning obligation to be submitted, but this has been extended until March 28. This is to allow HCC’s cabinet to consider the matter at its meeting on February 25.