Detailed plans submitted for St Albans Rail Freight

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot

The proposed site of the Radlett rail freight depot - Credit: Archant

The community is once again uniting against plans for a St Albans Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI).

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

Although developer Helioslough obtained outline planning permission for the former Radlett Airfield site four years ago, it has now submitted specific plans for access, design, infrastructure and landscaping of the Park Street land.

New documents lay out the finer details of what an SRFI would mean for the site, but also include some amendments to the initial permission.

The railway line would shifting 30 meters, the country park visitor centre would no longer operate from Hedges Farm, a new electricity substation would be erected, and there would not be a sports pitch along Radlett Road.

Helioslough has also proposed a new bridge across the bypass, and existing Rights of Way might be replaced with surfaced multi-user routes for horses riders, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Oliver Dowden and Anne Main at Rail Freight protest.

Oliver Dowden and Anne Main at Rail Freight protest. - Credit: Archant

One resident responded to the consultation: “I do not know why I am bothering to contact you yet again regarding the forthcoming desecration of our area of Hertfordshire by the building of the SRFI when we all know that under our so-called democratic system the views and objections of thousands of local people will be totally ignored by the handful of councillors who make the final decision.”

SADC originally rejected the planning application, and fought Helioslough in the High Court and on appeal to stop the scheme.

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Despite its efforts, then-Community Secretary Eric Pickles approved the application in 2014.

Another resident said: “They state [the rail line movement] is a minor change, which of course it is not. In fact this change represents a material move of approximately 10 per cent closer to Napsbury Park properties.”

St Stephen Parish Council commented: “This council objected strongly to this development from the outset and continues to do so. The applications listed are of a technical nature and members of this council do not have the expertise to comment on them.”

Many objections raised concerns about a hike in lorry congestion. One man said: “My fundamental objection relates to the significant increase in HGV traffic in the area, specifically on the A5183 and North Orbital Road.

“The scale of the terminal and 24 hour operations will add hundreds of lorries daily to roads that are already overloaded, with daily congestion already at North Orbital roundabouts with current volumes.”

One woman added: “Lorries travelling to and from the proposed site will carry the full range of cargoes including hazardous materials.

“The greater the volume of road traffic, the greater likelihood of the incidence of road accidents.

“As the proposed development will significantly increase road traffic locally so will the risks from spillage of hazardous materials increase endangering the health and wellbeing of the local community.”

St Albans MP Anne Main has been campaigning for Network Rail to release details on how an SRFI would work alongside the already congested Thameslink line.

Without clarification, there have been fears the freight will evolve into a lorry terminal.

Another resident was shocked at the introduction of the substation: “Such a building is substantial in size by any standard, and the suggestion that it is acceptable for this to fall outside the curtilage of what is already a 331,665 metre square site is astonishing.

“The proposed site as approved is already staggering in size and scale, and therefore any proposed structure should only be allowed within it’s limits.”

Other residents were angry at the nearly decade long saga: “In what sense are you a planning department?

“If you allow this development to go ahead any credibility you may have had will finally and forever be lost.

“This proposal was always a deeply flawed application combined with blatant commercial self interest.”

Although Helioslough has received outline planning permission for an SRFI, the land is actually owned by Herts County Council (HCC), which recently submitted the land to SADC for a 2,000 home garden village following the call for sites in its revised Local Plan.

The documents will go to a planning policy committee meeting on May 14 and can be seen by searching for reference numbers 5/2016/3006, 5/2017/1938, 5/2017/1995.