Council threaten government rail freight decision with court battle (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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St Albans District Council threaten government's Park Street rail freight decision with court battle
St Albans District Council has threatened to take the Government’s decision on the rail freight in Park Street to the High Court.
The council has written to the secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, to ask him to reconsider his decision to agree the huge rail terminal.
In September last year Mr Pickles agreed to look at the rail freight plans in conjunction with a similar appeal in Colnbrook in Slough.
But in December he changed his mind and decided not to call them in for reconsideration.
His decision has been met with outrage by people in the area who have been fighting the proposals to develop the former Radlett Aerodrome site for years.
This week the district council branded Mr Pickles' decision as "flawed" and threatened to challenge it legally.
Mike Lovelady, head of legal at the council, says in the letter that he will be forced to take the decision to judicial review in the High Court if the department does not reconsider.
In the letter, which was sent on January 18, Mr Lovelady said: "The council notifies you that the decision at the present time is flawed.
"The errors in the decision are allied to the errors which have been made in the secretary of state’s decision not to conjoin the Radlett appeal with the Colnbrook appeal."
In September Mr Pickles decided the two schemes should be heard together because they "raise similar and inter-related issues".
He said that the decision on the development in Park Street site may have a significant bearing on his determination on Colnbrook and conjoining the two would lead to a more coherent and consistent decision-making process.
Mr Lovelady also criticised the rail freight proposals for not fully considering the impact of building on Green Belt land.
He said: "It was, moreover, a decision which failed to deal adequately, or at all, with the proper policy basis for considering the national policy position in respect of Green Belt issues by which the need to establish very special circumstances is made a central consideration."
News of the council’s action has been welcomed by the thousands of residents who have been fighting against the rail freight project.
Cathy Bolshaw, co-ordinator for STRiFE, the campaign group working against the development, showed her support for the council’s action.
She said: "This is good news.
"We’re very glad that they are taking such a proactive response.
"It is the next stage forward.
The group set up a petition against the development which has now collected more than 5500 signatures.
St Albans’ MP, Anne Main said: "I completely agree with the council’s decision; there was no explanation of the about turn in the secretary of state’s position given his strong support for conjoined inquires mere months before.
"I, along with the council, wrote to the secretary of state to support conjoined inquires as we believe that seen side by side, it strengthens our argument.
"I do not understand why he did not follow through with conjoining the inquiries and we have been given no reason why he did not. What changed?
"I am suspicious that it had more to do with national economic strategy than planning policy.
"We continue to fight until the very end. We will explore every avenue in parliament and outside to expose the decision making process."
The council has requested a response from the department within seven days.