Rail freight extension: 'Three months longer to lobby', say campaigners (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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Secretary of state Eric Pickles' rail freight extension: 'Three months longer to lobby', say campaigners
Campaigners against controversial plans for a rail freight depot near Park Street said they will continue to put pressure on the county council, after it has been announced it will be at least three months until a final decision is made.
In a letter received today the Secretary of State Eric Pickles said he had decided "to allow a further three calendar months "from Thursday, August 15 to make a decision on plans for the former Radlett Aerodrome site.
The developers, Helioslough, will now have until November 15 to reach planning obligation agreements with Hertfordshire County Council.
Cathy Bolshaw, co-ordinator for the group campaigning against the development STRiFE, said: "This is good news because we were all expecting the worst news.
"This has given us another three months to keep the pressure on the county council because they now hold the decision in their hands.
"Anne Main has been lobbying against it and three months gives more time for that."
In December 2012 Mr Pickles sent a letter to the developers, Helioslough, in which he stated that he was minded to approve the proposal.
Following this announcement in June St Albans District Council’s application for a judicial review which challenged the decision not to reopen the inquiry or conjoin it with a similar site near Slough was rejected.
St Albans county councillor Aislinn Lee said: "We are in no different place than we were yesterday.
"Along with the local community I would hope that the county council in any case would decide that no amount of planning obligation decided with Helioslough would make this proposal acceptable.
"There is a wealth of support opposed to this proposal and no amount of planning obligation being proposed by Helioslough would prevent this having a serious detrimental effect on the local area and wider community in Hertfordshire."
The Liberal Democratic councillor explained they would now await a decision on whether St Albans District Council’s request for the adjournment of an oral court hearing which is scheduled for the end of August will take place.
The district council has requested the adjournment of the oral hearing to discuss a judicial review into conjoining Radlett with a similar site, because their leading barrister is currently on annual leave.
This has been rejected by Helioslough and Mr Pickles.
Councillor Lee added: "There is an experienced solicitor to make the replacement but for continuity the district council has requested an adjournment which will be heard in the first oral hearing at the end of August.
"The second court hearing would then be to decide on a judicial review and whether Colnbrook and Radlett are to be conjoined."
MP Anne Main who has recently been in talks with the Minister of State for Transport, Simon Burns MP, to discuss effects of a rail freight on FCC services, said she welcomed further consideration.
Ms 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 could have on commuter services and have their response to the Minister for Transport’s detailed and technical questions.
"It gives more time for questions of compensation and consideration of blight to be discussed prior to any decision being taken, which has been totally overlooked so far.
"It also gives me more time to highlight the flaws with this application that I am sure the developer would want to gloss over.
"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."
Conservative councillor for Park Street Stephen Bowes-Phipps said the agony had extended a further three months.
"We are just bracing ourselves for bad news. In some ways it is not bad news because we never know what could come up in three months. This may be a positive thing.
"We will just have to wait and see the outcomes of the oral court hearing and whether we can get a judicial review back on the table." He said.
While former Labour MP Kerry Pollard said: "This 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."
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