Secretary of State calls for comments on Radlett rail freight proposal

A PUBLIC inquiry into the controversial massive rail freight terminal proposed to be built on Green Belt land on the outskirts of St Albans could be reopened.

The Secretary of State for communities and local government Eric Pickles has invited St Albans district council (SADC) to submit written representations to him on an appeal by HelioSlough Ltd about the land in and around the former Radlett Aerodrome.

He has also told them that they could, alternatively, ask for the inquiry to be reopened.

This follows a court order issued by the High Court on July 4 this year scuppering a decision by Mr Pickles in which he dismissed HelioSlough’s appeal and refused planning permission for the development.

The High Court quashed Mr Pickles’ rejection for the scheme on Green Belt land in Park Street on the grounds that he had not made clear one of his four reasons for overruling the planning inspector who had recommended granting permission.

In his decision, Mr Pickles had argued that a similar proposal in Colnbrook, Slough, could potentially meet the need for a huge rail freight terminal, without causing as much harm to the Green Belt as the Park Street proposal.

Mr Pickles, who is first defendant, recently wrote to SADC, a second defendant in the case, and other interested parties including St Albans MP Anne Main and the Chiswell Green Residents’ Association, informing them that they have until October 14 to send written representations on the appeal, or call for an inquiry.

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But he will consider all views before deciding whether to reopen the inquiry, as the application and appeal will now be redetermined by the Secretary of State.

Mr Pickles also wants representations on any new matters or change in circumstances, and has asked for clarification of the position of Hertfordshire county council, which owns the vast majority of the site, is on the application.

A spokeswoman for campaign group STRiFE, which has fought the proposal, said it would make representations after further consultation with legal advisors.

But in a blow to opponents of the development, Slough borough council has refused an application for the alternative scheme, a rail and road freight terminal in Colnbrook, proposed by Goodman Ltd.

HelioSlough made a submission to that application, saying that it should be refused on the grounds that the St Albans site would perform better as a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange, and that the highways and air quality impact at Colnbrook would be worse than at Park Street.

SADC portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Teresa Heritage, said: “We will be providing strong representations to the Secretary of State before he comes to his decision on this matter.”