Eric Pickles urged by politicians to reconsider rail freight evidence (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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Secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, urged by politicians to reconsider Park Street rail freight evidence
Ruling Hertfordshire politicians are urging the secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, to rethink plans for a large rail freight terminal in Park Street after he said he was "minded" to agree to the scheme.
Derrick Ashley, a Conservative cabinet member of Hertfordshire County Council, said the authority disagreed that the merits of the scheme, slated for the former Radlett Airfield, outweighed the harm.
His comments come the day after the council, which owns the site, deferred a decision over whether to sell the land to the developers HelioSlough until after Mr Pickles had ruled on the planning application.
St Albans District Council has already rejected two applications for the terminal but Mr Pickles is yet to make his final decision on the scheme.
Derrick Ashley, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: "In his letter of 20 December 2012, the secretary of state indicated only that he was ‘minded’ to approve the application. Having taken everyone’s views on board, we disagree with his conclusion that the factors in favour of the rail freight scheme outweigh the harm it will cause. We’re strongly asking him to reconsider all the evidence available and review his conclusion.
"Only when that decision is made and any legal challenge is complete will we decide whether or not to sell or lease this land. Even if we are legally obliged to dispose of the land, we will consider all offers then available, not just HelioSlough’s."
At the same meeting, the county council voted to enter into negotiations with HelioSlough over planning obligations in respect of the land at the former Radlett Airfield site.
However politicians said this was a legal necessity and did not in any way imply the council supported the scheme.
Councillor Ashley added: "Legally we have no alternative but to enter into a Section 106 planning obligation with the developers, even though we disagree with the secretary of state’s decision. We are concerned that the planning obligations in the Section 106 are inadequate and we’ll also raise this with the secretary of state.
"I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to attend and speak at the meetings today, which helped the cross-party Cabinet Panel come to a unanimous recommendation to cabinet."
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