St Albans rail freight petition reaches 10,000 target

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign - Credit: Archant

You did it! A petition calling on the county council not to sell Green Belt land at Radlett Airfield to rail freight developers Helioslough has passed the magic 10,000 mark.

It means the county council, which owns a substantial part of the former airfield which it would have to agree to sell to Helioslough if a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) is to be built there, has to discuss the issue in public.

And while, as the Herts Advertiser revealed last week, the decision will be taken by the nine-man county cabinet - of which only two members represent divisions in the St Albans district and they are from Harpenden - the council has the option to make recommendations to inform that decision.

It allows county councillors from the district to highlight the impact of an SRFI not just on St Albans but the county as a whole.

A surge of signings at the end of last week have pushed the number of signatures on the e-petition to over 10,500 and more people signed at a market stall in the city centre on Saturday.

Action group STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange - will also be at the Festival of Sport in Westminster from 10am to midday this Sunday, September 13, with a paper copy of the petition for people to sign.

STRiFE spokesperson Cathy Bolshaw said this week that they were aiming to get the number of signatures up to 12,000 by the time the petition closes on September 26.

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Welcoming the county council debate in public, she went on: “At that debate we will be asking for full council to make that decision not nine members of the cabinet.

“Democracy should be heard and this matter is probably one of the most important in the history of Hertfordshire.”

Cathy praised the Herts Advertiser for its role in the campaign to stop the SRFI being built at the former airfield in Park Street.

“Thank you very much for your continued support. Last week’s publication really made a big difference.”

Andy Love, who has been active in the campaign in recent months, added: “Last Thursday’s edition had everyone talking and it could well have had the desired impact on both helping to ensure we got the required number of signatures to trigger a public debate and also possibly influencing the county council’s future handling of any interest in the Park Street land.”

The online petition, which can be signed by anyone living in Hertfordshire, can be found here.

Alternatively it can be accessed via the STRiFE website, or by googling Herts county council e-petitions.

* Cllr Robert Gordon, chair of the county council cabinet, has explained that all executive decision-making on issues such as the sale of land at Radlett Airfield has to be taken by cabinet in line with a Local Government Act of 2000.

But he stressed that arrangements in Herts had evolved to allow opposition members and non-cabinet members of the majority Tory group to participate in the relevant cross-party cabinet panel which would make representations to cabinet. Non members were also allowed to speak.

Cllr Gordon, who said no approach had been made by Helioslough at the present time, added: “Our processes allow for a far wider engagment among the elected members and other representative voices.”