St Albans MP tells Parliament she 'will not give up' on rail freight fight (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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Anne Main states in Parliament she 'will not give up' on rail freight fight
St Albans’ MP Anne Main raised the high-profile debate on a proposal to build a rail freight terminal in Park Street in Parliament yesterday.
The Conservative politician joined forces with Hertsmere’s MP James Clappison to raise concern about the development, which the Sectary of State has said he is minded to approve.
She spoke about the history of the former Radlett Aerodrome site, highlighting that it represented 10% of St Albans’ Green Belt land.
In her opening statement she said: "It is worth restating that green-belt land serves specific purposes.
"The Radlett green-belt site fulfils all those functions, so it serves a very valuable purpose, even if it is not all beautiful woodland. There is no bad green belt.
"My constituents in St Albans need to know whether the green belt is safe under this Government, or will the economic imperative to get the country building mean that we ditch those worthy principles when it suits us?
"It is important to explore whether the minister is fully supportive of protecting green belt policy or if he believes it to be an inconvenient blockage that stands in the way of the drive for growth."
Mr Clappison added: "It would be disastrous for the green belt in Hertfordshire, for her and my constituents and for anybody who has a fondness and affection for the city of St Albans. I join her in paying tribute to STRiFE for its hard work against the behemoth that is seeking the planning application.
"It is entirely right that we debate the decisions not to hold a conjoined inquiry for the Colnbrook and Radlett proposals and to grant permission for the Radlett proposal.
"Those decisions can be described only as perverse and unreasonable, in view of what the government have said previously."
He went on to quote a letter from Eric Pickles sent on September 19 that stated he would look at the Radlett proposal alongside a similar plan for Colnbrook in Slough.
Mr Clappison added: "The Secretary of State’s view on 19 September could not have been clearer, nor could the subsequent U-turn.
"How can he take the view in September that a conjoined inquiry is the right way forward, then simply take the opposite view in December, without giving any proper explanation, and decide that one is unnecessary?
"The majority of respondents to the Secretary of State’s letter of 19 September were in favour of a conjoined inquiry, and, in any case, all the responses to the consultation were what would have been expected from the relevant parties.
"The Minister needs to explain to my constituents and those of my honourable friend how that change came about."
Nick Boles, the Parliamentary under-secretary of state for communities and local government responded to the concerns raised by both MPs.
He said: "They are both entirely tireless, passionate and committed in fighting for their constituents’ interests, and I completely understand their strength of feeling and that of the constituents whom they are representing about the decision.
"I hope that you will understand that, unfortunately, I am not able to comment specifically on this proposal because it may be subject to judicial review, as my honourable friends know very well.
"Unfortunately, that means that I, with my quasi-judicial function, cannot go into the reasons for the Secretary of State’s decision before Christmas about being minded to allow the proposal.
"Although I completely accept that the specific reasons do not satisfy either my hon. Friends or their constituents, I am afraid that that is all I can say about them.
"Although they and their constituents profoundly disagree with the decision, that decision flows from existing policy, which is unchanged and was set out in the national planning policy framework.
"It explains that the green belt is often highly valued by communities and provides a vital "green lung" around many towns.
"In its original draft, as approved by Parliament, the framework states that many types of new building are inappropriate development and should not be granted permission "except in very special circumstances".
"The key test, as set out in the framework, is whether a particular development meets such very special circumstances.
"I entirely accept and respect the fact that neither of my honourable friends believe, and nor do their constituents believe, that this proposal meets that test, and I suspect that nothing could be said or any evidence produced that would persuade them."
Following the debate Mrs Main said: "It is very important that the minister realises how angry I and my constituents are about the seemingly perverse decision making that has led to the minister being ‘minded to’ grant the go ahead at Radlett.
"It was a rushed debate in a short time; however it is crucial that the minister is aware that the people of St Albans will not tolerate his flip-flopping from a conjoined inquiry to a ‘minded to’ decision in just a few months.
"I will not give up until the minister has explained why he changed his mind, and I hope we can change his mind back to refusing this monstrosity."
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