Work begins on controversial Rail Freight interchange near St Albans

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot - Credit: Archant

Work is finally underway on the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange in Park Street to prevent planning permission from lapsing during the consultation period.

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot - Credit: Archant

The rail freight terminal is proposed for Green Belt land on the former Radlett Aerodrome site, and developers SEGRO - previously known as Helioslough - have met with years of opposition from campaigners.

A SEGRO spokesman said: "Following two public enquiries which fully explored the merits of the strategic rail freight scheme, the Secretary of State granted outline planning permission in 2014.

"Since then we have engaged positively in the planning process in order to progress the scheme and the recent works have been carried out to ensure the planning permission does not lapse while the next phases of public examination take place.

"We are aware that the draft Local Plan for St Albans is being reviewed and that the public examination is due to begin in January 2020.

Cathy Bolshaw, rail freight demonstration

Cathy Bolshaw, rail freight demonstration - Credit: Archant

"One of the many topics of debate will be the appropriate use of the site for which planning permission for the strategic rail freight terminal has been granted."

Since 2006, campaign group STRiFE (Stop The Rail Freight Exchange) has objected to the proposals, arguing that the rail freight would be a loss to the Green Belt.

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Founder Cathy Bolshaw said: "We all knew this day would come at some point. The planning consent is valid for five years so they had to do something.

"We're very sorry to hear that they've made a start on some works - the timing is impeccable when there are no sitting MPs.

"The Local Plan is still under consultation so they want to be seen to be making a stand so the land can't be turned into housing.

"All is not lost because they still don't own a piece of land that they need in the middle of the site, and they still don't know whether it can be connected to the railway line."

Malcolm Mark, from Napsbury Park Residents' Association, has also been fighting the proposals since 2006: "I think it's ridiculous. They don't own the land - the whole thing is just nonsensical.

"This is just going to be a lorry depot if it comes off. I can't see how it's viable. Everybody has been against this except the company themselves."