St Albans district council to challenge Eric Pickles’ rail freight decision in High Court

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street - Credit: Archant

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is facing a court battle after allowing a controversial major rail freight interchange in Park Street to go ahead, contrary to widespread condemnation in St Albans.

The district council has this afternoon (Friday) announced that it is set to challenge Mr Pickles after lodging a claim in the High Court.

After months of uncertainty the minister gave planning permission to Helioslough to build on the Green Belt site of the former Radlett Airfield in July.

His decision was a major blow to locals who had long campaigned against the mammoth interchange.

Among those reacting angrily were St Albans MP Anne Main who said she was “absolutely gutted”, and Labour councillor for London Colney, Jacob Quagliozzi, who described it as a “hammer blow” to the village and surrounding areas.

A spokeswoman for the council said that the authority’s claim concerned the legality of the Secretary of State’s decision on July 14 to allow an appeal brought by Helioslough.

That appeal concerned the council’s refusal of planning permission for a strategic rail freight interchange at the Park Street site near St Albans.

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The council is challenging the decision on three points of law – the first is in regards to the legality of the Secretary of State’s approach in taking his decision.

The second relates to the misapplication of wording in the National Planning Policy Framework, a document that sets out planning policy nationally.

And the third ground for the challenge relates to procedural irregularity and inconsistency on the interchange decision.

This follows Mr Pickles’ recent refusal of planning permission for a waste incinerator plant, also on Green Belt land, about one mile from Colney Heath at nearby New Barnfield, in Hatfield.

The council’s leader 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.

“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.”

Mrs Main said: “I am pleased that the council are still fighting this proposal. I have never been happy with the decision taken by the Secretary of State. Very similar proposals have been refused on two previous occasions and I believe this should also be refused.

“I am outraged that this David and Goliath fight is costing my council so much to stand up for the people of St Albans and defend its own robust planning policies. I will continue to do all I can to fight this proposal and to assist the council with their challenge.”