The waiting game continues as rail freight verdict delayed

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign

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

ANTI-RAIL freight campaigners have expressed mixed reaction to the announcement that a verdict on plans to redevelop the former Radlett Airfield will be delayed for at least 12 weeks.

After disclosing he was “minded” to approve a proposal for a massive rail freight depot near Park Street, Secretary of State Eric Pickles has now given developers Helioslough a further three months to reach an agreement with landowners Herts County Council.

The news, which came last Thursday, has been welcomed by local rail freight action group STRiFE who claim it will give them more time to fight against the scheme.

But the delay has been criticised by current and former local politicians for leaving residents living in the vicinity in limbo.

Cathy Bolshaw from STRiFE said: “Another three months is good news as it gives us time to keep the pressure on. Clearly Herts County Council now hold the key entirely in their hands, and we will be urging them to do the right thing by resisting this monstrous development on the Green Belt land.”

An application submitted by Helioslough, who want to develop a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) facility at Radlett Airfield, has already been subjected to two major planning appeals.

The company also attempted to seek a judicial review to put pressure on Mr Pickles to make a final ruling but this was unsuccessful.

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Commenting on the latest decision, St Albans MP Anne Main said: “Whilst I am always hoping the department will see the light and reject this proposal I welcome this delay for further consideration.

“Over the next few months it gives us time to get clarification from Network Rail on the effect this development could have on commuter services and have Network Rail’s response to the Minister for Transport’s detailed and technical questions.”

She also said it provides greater opportunity to highlight the application’s flaws, adding: “No one believes that this will ultimately be a SRFI; it is a Trojan horse for massive development in the Green Belt.

“I will continue to do everything I can to stop this going forward.”

But taking a different view, St Albans district councillor Simon Grover felt it was another “frustrating delay” and said the only people happy with the hold-up would be the lawyers.

Former St Albans MP Kerry Pollard also said: “Today’s announcement will just mean the agonising wait for people in St Albans and Park Street and London Colney in particular continues.

“While ordinary people wait, the developer is given yet another extension to get their house in order. The good news is we have another three months to continue to show Eric Pickles this is the wrong terminal in the wrong town.

“The fight must go on and I continue to believe Herts County Council could find an alternative use for the site.”

St Albans district council has confirmed they are still pushing for a judicial review into Mr Pickles’ decision not to hold a conjoined public inquiry with a similar rail freight scheme in Slough.

While their initial bid was rejected by a High Court, an oral hearing before a judge to reconsider the ruling has been provisionally set for August 30.