'Stabbed in back' by county council over Radlett rail freight inquiry

PUBLISHED: 06:43 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010

HIGHWAYS objections to the building of a massive rail freight depot at Park Street will have to be shelved - thanks to the county council. In a shock move which has been described as stabbing St Albans residents in the back, the county council as highways

HIGHWAYS objections to the building of a massive rail freight depot at Park Street will have to be shelved - thanks to the county council.

In a shock move which has been described as stabbing St Albans residents in the back, the county council as highways authority has said that there are no new traffic reasons to oppose the Helioslough scheme for Radlett Airfield which goes to its second public inquiry next month.

It follows the inspector's ruling at the pre-inquiry meeting earlier this month that he did not want to revisit issues raised at the first public inquiry unless there have been significant changes.

And the highways authority has now taken the view that there has been no material change in circumstances to justify them making a fresh objection, even though the district council believes there has been.

In addition, the county council fears that there is a high risk that significant costs could be awarded against them if they continued voicing the same objection.

The decision will force the district council to remove highways objections from its grounds for refusing the latest application from Helioslough, even though it believes that the development of Butterfly World and a new Hilton Hotel in Chiswell Green will greatly increase traffic on local roads.

A furious Cllr Chris Brazier, the district council's planning portfolio holder, explained: "We will have to withdraw the objection on highways issues because the county council is not supporting us. It may be that we will have to look outside for consultants.

Disappointment

"This is a huge disappointment, particularly to St Albans residents, and as a planning authority it really does weaken us. We still have rail objections and the alternative sites as well as the Green Belt issue but it undermines the whole thing, particularly as the county council owns the site.

"I think the county council has sold St Albans down the river and we will continue to put pressure on them to appear at the inquiry on November 24."

Lib-Dem parliamentary hopeful Sandy Walkington accused the county council of caving in to legal threats and in the process, stabbing the people of St Albans in the back.

But St Albans MP Anne Main and the pressure group STRiFE believe that, while it is regrettable, there is still a strong case against the Helioslough plan.

Mrs Main said that even as a Conservative MP, she would have no influence on the Tory-controlled county council because highways experts at County Hall would have looked at it and decided to make no objection.

She believes the key issues are the alternative sites study which Helioslough prepared in the wake of the first public inquiry and the availability of rail pathways into the site from the Midland Mainline. She added: "This is not the first time that highways have failed to push what people know to be a fact and I have to accept their technical expertise. But our strongest card has yet to be played."

STRiFE spokesperson Cathy Bolshaw said: "It is very disappointing because as residents who live and use the roads around here, we know there is a problem with the traffic now and we know what effect the rail freight depot would have.

"But the point is that there are still lots of other issues which need to be addressed. Without a guarantee of rail freight passage into the site, it can't work as a rail freight depot."

A spokesperson for the county council said that while they had not objected to the proposal for the reasons given, they did not in any way support the Helioslough application.

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