Radlett rail freight firm fail to force a decision

Put the Brakes on Freight

Put the Brakes on Freight - Credit: Archant

A LEGAL bid by rail freight developers Helioslough to force the Secretary of State to make a final decision on the scheme has failed.

Helioslough, which wants to develop Radlett Airfield in Park Street into a massive Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI), had applied for a Judicial Review in an attempt to make Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, reach a final ruling following the most recent appeal into the controversial scheme.

But this week Deputy High Court Judge John Howell refused permission for a Judicial Review in the High Court, saying that the legislation imposed, ‘no express duty on the Secretary of State to take a decision on the appeal by the time set”.

And he also said that in light of the history of the application – which has been the subject of two planning appeals and is currently caught up in legal action – he was unable to ascertain the extent of the issues which the Secretary of State had to deal with because the comments of St Albans district council had not been produced by Helioslough.

The ruling can be challenged if Helioslough applies for reconsideration of its application at an oral hearing before a High Court judge – the step taken by St Albans council after the refusal last month of its Judicial Review application over Mr Pickles’ department’s failure to reopen the planning inquiry into Radlett Airfield in conjunction with a similar scheme in Colnbrook, Slough.

St Albans council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, gave a guarded welcome to Helioslough’s failure to get the go ahead for a Judicial Review. He said: “It is perfectly reasonable for the Secretary of State to take the time he needs to make a decision on something of such importance to the local community.

“The council was right in its original decision to oppose the scheme and our position remains the same.”

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St Albans MP Anne Main was more forthright: “This is good news for St Albans but I wish Helioslough would stop trying to bully the Secretary of State to make a decision in their favour.

“This costs not only every taxpayer for the costs of the department defending themselves but also local taxpayers. The developer and others need to stop turning this into a lawyers’ festival and I think the court’s decision fully illustrates my point that we should stop this lawyers’ bickering behind closed doors.”

She added: “All the arguments should be reconsidered at a public inquiry and I believe that were this to be done the failings of this proposal would be made abundantly clear.”

Lib Dem parliamentary hopeful Sandy Walkington, who has been actively involved in the campaign against the SRFI scheme, said: “It feels more and more like Alice in Wonderland with increasingly incomprehensible legal rulings. My head hurts just reading this latest judgement. But any setback for Helioslough however technical has to be a win for the people of St Albans.”

As the situation stands at the moment, Mr Pickles has told Helioslough he is “minded” to approve the scheme subject to planning agreements. But the county council, as owners of the former airfield, has decided not to take any decision on the sale of the land until a final ruling is made on St Albans council’s bid for a Judicial Review into a conjoined inquiry.