St Albans people have their say: 1,400 people vote for housing over rail freight

The Taylor Wimpey masterplan.

The Taylor Wimpey masterplan. - Credit: Archant

Poll results suggest a vast majority of St Albans people would prefer housing built instead of a rail freight terminal.

Oliver Dowden and Anne Main at Rail Freight protest.

Oliver Dowden and Anne Main at Rail Freight protest. - Credit: Archant

To accompany Taylor Wimpey’s launch of a housing masterplan for the Park Street Green Belt site, where a controversial Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) is also proposed, this newspaper set up an online poll asking residents what development they would prefer.

With 1,600 votes, 86 per cent of readers would prefer to sacrifice that land to housing.

Just over 230 people opted for an SRFI, which is just 14 per cent.

Land and planning director at Taylor Wimpey North Thames, Andy Holloway, said: “We are of course very pleased with the results and somewhat overwhelmed by the number of responses.

“We believe that this gives a clear indication that the local community would prefer a garden village to the currently consented SRFI.”

St Albans district council (SADC) have proposed a 2,000 home development on the contentious site in the draft Local Plan, despite threats of legal action from SRFI developers HelioSlough.

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The document is currently out for a second public consultation until October 17.

Andy added: “We would urge those who do support the garden village to respond to the Local Plan consultation and make your feelings known to St Albans council.”

The poll ran from September 12 to October 1.

Planning portfolio holder at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, said: “Firstly I would say I am not surprised because that is what comes out of the ward councillors in the area and anyone who has gone door to door knocking in Park Street knows that is what residents want.”

Neither HelioSlough or Taylor Wimpey own the site, and both would have to buy it from Herts county council if they wanted to progress with development plans.

Cllr Maynard noted: “Generally, anybody can put in a planning application on any piece of land.”

The housing masterplan included new schools, open spaces, health facilities, and the potential for a new bypass to Frogmore, and links to How Wood and Park Street stations.

A spokesperson from SEGRO, who own HelioSlough, said: “The SRFI is a nationally important infrastructure project that will play a key role in supporting the government’s rail freight strategy which includes getting more freight off the roads and onto rail, reducing HGV movements and improving air quality.”

She argued SRFI will also create local jobs in a post-Brexit world.