St Albans rail freight scheme inquiry ruled unnecessary

THERE are fears that today’s (Friday) announcement by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles that he will now not reopen a public inquiry into the massive railfreight scheme for Park Street “bodes ill for the final decision”.

Mr Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who has twice deferred a decision this year on the Helioslough proposal, has now decided that it is “unnecessary” to reopen the inquiry into the Radlett appeal.

Also, he has decided against conjoining it with the planning inquiry into the Colnbrook appeal.

This follows a recent announcement that the minister would hear an inquiry in conjunction with another scheme for Colnbrook in Slough, consideration of which led Mr Pickles to refuse the second appeal into the Helioslough scheme for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield.

The minister had recently proposed reopening the inquiry and conjoining it with the planned inquiry into the proposed SRFI at Colnbrook, which was to have been heard in early October but was cancelled pending the Radlett decision.

In today’s turnaround, the minister said he was “satisfied” that he could determine the Radlett proposal on the basis of the evidence before him.

The minister had invited views on reopening the inquiry into Radlett and conjoining it with the Slough scheme.

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Lib Dem spokesman Sandy Walkington said: “It is an astonishing turnaround because Mr Pickles was indicating that there was such a cross-over between the Colnbrook and Radlett appeals that there should be a joint inquiry, and he is suddenly saying he has changed his mind.”

Mr Walkington said there had been support locally for the inquiry, including from campaigners, but he feared Mr Pickles had “bowed to pressure from Helioslough”, which had objected to it.

He added: “Whether this bodes ill for the final decision, I cannot say, but it isn’t a good Christmas present.”

St Albans MP Anne Main said “I believe it would have been helpful to consider the two proposals together especially since it would help illuminate the issues that surround the Radlett proposal such as poor access and the lack of a local workforce.

“That said, I believe there is still an extremely strong case for rejecting the Radlett proposal and I continue to hope this is what the Secretary of State will do.”