St Albans Tory councillor quits over Eric Pickles’ support for rail freight depot

Steve Bowes-Phipps, Twitter

Steve Bowes-Phipps, Twitter - Credit: Archant

A furious Conservative district councillor has resigned from the party over the government’s decision to back a massive rail freight terminal in Park Street.

Steve Bowes-Phipps, who represents Park Street ward, announced today (Wednesday) that he has resigned from the party in the wake of July’s decision by Secretary of State Eric Pickles to grant planning permission for a rail freight terminal on the former Radlett Airfield.

Citing Mr Pickles’ decision to ‘ignore Localism’, he described the decision as a ‘monumental mistake’ which was worsened by the duplicitious way the Secretary of state for Communities and Local Government had previously stated he would staunchly defend the Green Belt ‘only then to destroy it in St Albans with a wave of his hand.”

Praising the efforts of St Albans MP Anne Main, the professionalism of the council’s legal teams and the efforts of pressure group STRiFE, he said convincing the Secretary of State to re-examine the material facts of the planning application from Helioslough had proved fruitless.

Cllr Bowes-Phipps laments the way St Albans residents are now having their taxes spent on challenging the decision rather than being spent on local services and stressed that his views reflected in no way on the ‘excellent job my Conservative colleagues in the local group have performed or behaved during my 3-plus years in council.”

He will continue as an Independent councillor for Park Street until the result of the council’s latest legal challenge against the Secretary of State’s decision is known. It is not due to be heard until early 2015.

Cllr Bowes-Phipps’ decision will further strengthen the role of Independents and the district’s only Green councillor in decision-making. The minority ruling Tory group now has 28 councillors with the Lib-Dems 17, Labour 10 and Independents and Green three.