Government says NO to SIFE!

The Government has today agreed with the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation to DISMISS the appeal into SIFE, putting the “irreparable harm” that SIFE would cause ahead of the “considerable contribution” it would make to resolving London’s freight infrastructure need.

Secretary of State Greg Clark

Secretary of State Greg Clark

It was expected months ago, was most recently delayed until after the Local Elections in May, and has always been assumed to be linked, unofficially at least, to the Heathrow decision.  But today The Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has finally refused to grant planning permission to Goodman Logistics Development (UK) Ltd for the construction of the massive Slough International Freight Exchange in Colnbrook.

The appeal decision, which was communicated to interested parties at 9:55am this morning, ends a near six year planning battle. The application was registered on 27th September 2010 with Slough Borough Council.

The Secretary of State concurred with the inspector, Diane Lewis, that the proposal is “inappropriate development and by definition harmful to the Green Belt”. He found that the development is contrary to local and national policy and gave the “totality of the harm to the Green Belt” very substantial weight in reaching his decision. In addition, he determined that the damage to the Strategic Gap – that part of the Metropolitan Green Belt at Colnbrook – would be irreparable while there would be “localised harm” to the Colne Valley Park.

But while Mr Clark gave his full backing to the Green Belt he found the proposal would have only a marginal impact on local residents. He gave only “limited weight” to “the slight adverse impact on air quality”, and “a small degree of weight” to “the harmful social effect and erosion of quality of life of local communities”. He also concluded that, subject to the landscaping proposals Goodman submitted, there was little potential harm to biodiversity, water quality or flood risk.

An artist's impression of the second of three warehouses (each three times the size of Terminal 5), as seen from the Colnbrook By-pass.

An artist’s impression of the second of three warehouses (each three times the size of Terminal 5), as seen from the Colnbrook By-pass.

The decision to dismiss the appeal came in spite of the “considerable” contribution that the project would have made to resolving the unmet need for a network of Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFIs) around capital, the policy of successive governments.

“The Secretary of State accepts that the most important benefit of the proposal is the potential contribution to building up a network of SRFIs in the London and South East region, reducing the unmet need and delivering national policy objectives.

“In addition, there is the prospect of SIFE being complementary to Radlett and other smaller SRFI developments and improving the geographical spread of these facilities round Greater London. In this context, the Secretary of State accepts that the contribution it would make to meeting unmet need is considerable”.

… sites suitable for SRFIs are scarce and the difficulty in finding sites in the London and South East region … no less harmful alternative site has been identified in the West London market area

However the claimed reduction in carbon emissions from getting freight off roads and onto rail attracted only moderate weight.

Greg Clark’s verdict on SIFE

“In common with the Inspector in her conclusion reached by the inspector, the Secretary of State has been persuaded by the irreparable harm that would be caused to this very sensitive part of the Green Belt in the Colnbrook area, leading to the high level of weight he attaches to this consideration.

Overall, the Secretary of State concludes that the benefits of the scheme do not clearly overcome the harm. Consequently very special circumstances do not exist to justify the development. Furthermore, he finds that planning conditions would not be able to overcome the fundamental harms caused to the Green Belt, Strategic Gap and Colne Valley Park and the open environment enjoyed by the local community.

In addition, he has concluded that the proposal does not have the support of the NPS because very special circumstances have not been demonstrated.”


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