Second developer puts forward homes bid for Park Street rail freight site
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Harrow Estates and Taylor Wimpey are both keen to develop Green Belt land near St Albans
The latest legal advice on the contentious proposal to turn Green Belt land into a mammoth rail freight terminal has provided encouragement for those fighting the scheme.
Herts county council has been informed that as there is currently no offer from Helioslough, the developer pushing to turn the former Radlett Airfield site in Park Street into a rail freight interchange, the authority is entitled to consider any changes in circumstances that may have occurred, or may occur before they have to take the decision to sell.
This conclusion has been welcomed by long time opponent of the scheme, Lib Dem Cllr Sandy Walkington, who explained that the advice “in short, means the council is not legally bound to sell to Helioslough if there are new factors to be taken into account”.
He attended a debate on Monday at the council’s resources panel meeting, concerning expressions of interest in the former airfield.
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The council has already been approached by Taylor Wimpey North Thames, which would like to build 2,000 homes on the site, and late last week a second developer stepped forward.
Harrow Estates told the council of its alternative proposal, submitting an expression of interest for a residential-led mixed use for the former aerodrome. Harrow Estates is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Redrow Group of companies.
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Its representative told the council that Harrow Estates’ preference would be to buy the freehold for the 119-hectare site, or enter a joint venture agreement with the authority.
A similar suggestion has been put forward by Taylor Wimpey, which in a detailed proposal said that it would be willing to act as the development manager for the scheme, working on behalf of a partnership between it and the council.
Its proposal set out how a co-investment partnership could work, premised on the creation of a “value capture” joint venture between Taylor Wimpey as investor, and the council as landowner. This could be a 50/50 joint venture.
Tim Noden, planning director at Harrow Estates, told the Herts Advertiser yesterday (Wednesday): “I can confirm that Harrow Estates has been looking at the possibility of taking the land at the former Radlett Aerodrome forward for development in the form of a large scale Garden Village and recently submitted an expression of interest to Herts county council exploring the scope for joint working.
“In circumstances where the need for a rail freight interchange on the former aerodrome site no longer remains, such alternative development is considered to offer significant benefits to the area and the community as a whole.
“Harrow Estates is currently drafting a design framework document setting out the approach that would be taken and the principles that would be followed in line with the Government’s current aspirations for Garden Village development across the country.
“The company has a depth of experience in delivering similar Garden Village development schemes elsewhere with the most recent example being the redevelopment of a former BAE site at Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire which is currently under construction.”
The county council’s panel voted and unanimously agreed to recommend that HCC’s cabinet, which meets next Monday (11), agrees to confirm the authority’s “strong preference not to see a change in the current Green Belt status of the land, or to dispose of it”.
It also welcomed alternative uses which would secure value at least equivalent to the value of the land if used for an interchange, potentially giving cabinet more than one option to consider should the council become legally obliged to dispose of the land.
Taylor Wimpey intends discussing its proposals with St Albans district council to build a “garden village”.
However, Cllr Walkington warned: “It now becomes a planning matter for the district council, and since the site remains in the Green Belt, it seems unlikely housing could be allowed without all sorts of challenges.
“Also, the suggestion that such a development could qualify as a project under the Government’s plans for garden villages seems pie in the sky.
“This remains crucial Green Belt, nothing changes the already totally congested highways network; the important thing now is that we stiffen the backbone of the county council not to sell the land, period.
“When the leader of HCC talks about ‘fiduciary duty being triggered’, we have to be clear that this is always about the best interests of local residents and not just pound signs.”