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Railfreight developer's appeal overturned

CAMPAIGNERS have won their fight against the plan to build a massive railfreight depot on a former airfield between London Colney and Park Street.

Although inspector Andy Mead, who heard a six-week inquiry late last year into the controversial project, allowed the appeal by developer Helioslough, he has been overruled by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Councillor Chris Brazier, district council cabinet member for planning, said: "This is wonderful news. It is a very good thing for the whole of St Albans."

Although Mr Mead was sufficiently convinced by the company's argument to award costs against the council, as well as allowing the appeal, Mr Pickles disagreed, ruling there are other sites for a major goods yard serving the area, in particular Colnbrook near Slough.

The key passage of the decision letter reads: "The Secretary of State is not satisfied that the appraisal of alternative sites has clearly demonstrated that there would be no other suitable location in the north-west sector (of the M25) that would meet the need for an SRFI (strategic rail freight interchange) in the foreseeable future in a significantly less harmful way than the appeal site.

"He therefore disagrees with the inspector’s opinion that it cannot be rationally concluded that the Colnbrook site would meet the needs for an SRFI in a less harmful way than the appeal site."

Councillor Brazier said: "Helioslough may go to the High Court and try to argue that the Secretary of State should not have overruled the inspector, but I would hope that the reason given is sufficiently robust to defeat that."

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