Further attempts to link Radlett freight depot to Colnbrook fail to attract support
A second e-petition on the Parliament.uk website calling for a freight depot at Radlett to be linked to the rejected SIFE development in Colnbrook has failed to muster much support.
St Albans residents are continuing to link a proposed freight interchange to be built on site of the former Radlett Aerodrome to the Slough International Freight Exchange – even though SIFE has now been rejected. But a second attempt at an e-petition has attracted little interest while the town’s MP has been rebuffed by the Government.
For most of the past decade campaigners there have argued that Colnbrook was a better alternative to the controversial proposals for the town’s Green Belt. However, in a deal struck between Radlett developer Helioslough (co-owned by Slough Estates) and SIFE developer Goodman Logistics, the two giants agreed a year ago that their schemes were complementary to one another – removing it as a substantive topic during September’s inquiry.
SIFE was finally rejected on 13th July, ending a six year fight. However campaigners have accused the Government of being inconsistent in approving Radlett while rejecting Colnbrook – and they have called for a rethink.
At the end of July Radlett campaigner Andy Love had his first e-petition rejected by the committee that oversees Government e-petitions on the grounds that it was too vague. The petition had called on the Government to apply “the same criteria” to its decision-making.
But a second one, now in operation for nearly a month, has attracted just slightly over 200 signatures across 8 constituencies.
Further, Anne Main, the town’s MP, has been knocked back in her attempt to lobby Government ministers. Mrs Main told the Herts Advertiser this week that she could not understand the decision:
“Although this was not the answer I wanted to hear, I do find it baffling that the former Secretary of State refused Colnbrook for reasons similar to our own in Park Street.”
Colnbrook’s reprieve in the face of dismissal of the Radlett appeal was largely down to a ruling that the ‘Strategic Gap’ – that part of the London Green Belt that is weakest and most threatened – should be given greater protection. That came as a surprise to those attending the second day of the public inquiry last September.
The company’s barrister, Christopher Katkowski, had torn into Slough’s current and saved policies for the Green Belt and Colne Valley Park and forced head of planning Paul Stimpson to concede that the “special circumstances” test for development on the Strategic Gap was a “very high bar” that offered even greater protection than that offered to National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
However both the inspector and Communities Secretary Greg Clark disagreed, placing “substantial weight” on the Strategic Gap designation.
Radlett campaigners have vowed to fight on, and the local council is considering alternative proposals for housing on the site.
In Colnbrook nobody is in the party mood just yet – with all eyes on Mrs May for an imminent decision on a Third Runway. How the Strategic Gap would stand up to that is anyone’s guess – and even Heathrow’s own representative sat quietly through most of last September’s proceedings with obvious interest.