Radlett rail freight goes to court

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Another legal challenge in the High Court is pending after planning permission was granted by Government for a major rail freight interchange on a Green Belt site.

St Albans Council has lodged the claim in the High Court after the decision last month by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Goverment, to grant planning permission for a massive Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

The claim challenges the legality of Mr Pickles’ decision to allow the second appeal brought by SRFI developers Helioslough.

It is raising three points of law, the first of which is concerned with the legality of the Secretary of State’s approach in taking his decision. It argues that Mr Pickles had adopted the conclusion of his planning inspector who heard the most recent Helioslough appeal without engaging any further with the reasoning behind it.

The second ground for appeal is the misapplication of wording in the National Planning Policy Framework, the national planning blueprint. It centres on interpretation of the ‘very special circumstances’ which would apply to removing land from the Green Belt.

The final ground for challenge relates to procedural irregularity and inconsistency on the rail freight interchange decision. particularly in light of Mr Pickles’ recent decision to refuse planning permission for a waste incinerator plant on Green Belt land in New Barnfield, Hatfield.

Leader of the council and planning portfolio holder, Cllr Julian Daly, said: “The council considers that the proposed rail freight interchange at this site will be harmful to the district’s Green Belt.

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“We believe that the Secretary of State’s recent decision to grant planning permission is flawed legally. We are therefore taking action to challenge the decision in the High Court.”

The council has spent £1.4 million to date in the seven-year fight against the Helioslough scheme. A further challenge is expected to cost up to £100,000.