Outraged residents campaigning against a rail freight terminal in Park Street have set up a petition in their latest bid to bring a halt to the controversial plans.
Thousands of people have signed the petition, which is asking Hertfordshire County Council not to sell the former Radlett Aerodrome located between Park Street and London Colney, to the developer HelioSlough.
Since it was set up on Thursday, more than 2,700 people have added their name to the online list to voice their opposition and the number is growing fast.
Cathy Bolshaw, co-ordinator for STRIFE, the organisation that set up the petition, said the group hopes to collect at least 10,000 signatures.
She said: “We are just trying every angle of attack to stop this. The initial reaction has been quite amazing.
“It just shows how incensed people are at the decision. People are angry and frustrated.”
Secretary of State Eric Pickles announced that the development could go ahead at the end of last year, despite objections from residents, politicians and councils.
In the letter announcing that he is “minded to approve” the proposal, he highlighted and confirmed some of the campaigners’ main fears saying that “it would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt”.
He went on to admit it “would cause further harm through loss of openness and significant encroachment into the countryside”, “contribute to urban sprawl” and “cause some harm to the settings of St Albans”.
Kevin FitzGerald, honorary director of Hertfordshire Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “This cynical action showed utter contempt for the residents of Hertfordshire, who have fought long and hard against this nightmare proposal.
“Is it any wonder that people are so disillusioned with politics and politicians when they are hit with a decision like this?
“The opposition to this proposal by both residents and their elected representatives has been sustained and widespread. So much for the Government’s highly promoted ‘localism’ and its often repeated statement that it will protect the Green Belt.”
Dennis Cowen, chairman of the committee of Park Street’s Residents’ Association, said: “I think it is important everybody realises how much this rail terminal is going to affect us.
“I think most people in Park Street had it dwelling on their minds over the Christmas break.
“Although it is Park Street residents primarily who are going to suffer, people in St Albans and Radlett are going to suffer alongside us.
“When this petition was started we didn’t realise how quickly people would jump on it. It’s great.
“The fact that people have jumped to sign means they are anxious that things don’t go ahead.”
STRIFE is currently working with lawyers to pick through finer points of the letter to work out the best step to take next.
St Albans District Council is also currently taking legal advice regarding the content of the secretary of state’s letter.
Councillor Steve Bowes-Phipps, Conservative representative for Park Street said: “It’s not the end of the road.
“A lot of people are seeing this as doom and gloom. Of course it is a blow but we’ve got to be realistic.”
Robert Gordon, leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “The secretary of state has only indicated a ‘minded’ decision which means that planning permission for the scheme has not yet been granted. “The Department for Communities and Local Government has requested that a planning obligation be made which would bind all those with an interest in the land.
“Cabinet will give careful consideration to this request at its meeting in February and cannot make any decision on the future of its land ownership at this very early stage.
“Should any of the landowners refuse to sell the land, the Government can permit compulsory purchase action to be taken against landowners to ensure that national or regional transport policies can be implemented.”
To sign the petition visit: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614&all=1