Herts councillors expected to rubber-stamp Radlett scheme on Monday despite massive protest planned
STRiFE, the group protesting at the proposed Rail Freight Interchange at Radlett, is mustering the troops to turn out in numbers for an imminent council decision that could seal the fate of the development – and the rival SIFE in Colnbrook.
In a statement published on its website yesterday, STRiFE – Stop The RaIl Freight Exchange – is urging people in Herts to turn up to protest on the main steps of County Hall on Monday morning to let County Councillors know the depth of feeling that exists.
STRiFE, along with Anne Main MP, St Albans District Council, St Stephens Parish Council and Helioslough will all be presenting their case to the Cabinet of Hertfordshire County Council – which owns part of the site – prior to them making their decision on whether to sell the land or not.
The people of Hertfordshire are about to be sold out, by their own County Council. It is being recommended that the County Council sell the land on the former Radlett Aerodrome to the developer Helioslough so they can build a monstrous Strategic Rail Freight Terminal. This is subject to the Secretary of State granting planning permission, but this is really now a matter of rubber stamping.
STRiFE has campaigned relentlessly to push the development to Colnbrook and the fate of both have been intricately linked since Communities Secretary Eric Pickles suggested (then rejected) a “conjoined” inquiry.
There can be no question about the strength of local opposition. STRiFE managed to the first petition ever to reach over 10,000 in Herts, forcing a debate by the full council. It also managed two debates in Parliament.
Nevertheless, through a cruel legal quirk, Herts’ cabinet is expected to agree to sell the land that will make the scheme possible.
Legal counsel for Herts has insisted that the Council has no choice but to sell the land as it cannot go against Mr Pickles, and has a duty to maximise taxpayer value for the site.
A paper for consideration by the Cabinet recommends the Council should sell the land.
If there is no rational reason for not making the land available and the Council nevertheless decided to hold onto the land despite an offer at the best consideration that could reasonably be obtained then the Council would be acting irrationally and unlawfully and its decision to refuse to make the land available could be the subject of challenge in the courts.
Herts, says counsel, must look at the purposes for which it holds the land and given the Secretary of State’s conclusions decide whether “in the light of those purposes and in the light of its fiduciary duty to its taxpayers” it must enter into a s.106 agreement.
Herts’ section of the site has a book value of £1.78 million but the change of use imposed by Pickles would mean the sale would nett at least ten times that by the Council’s estimation.
However councillors could expect to be severely punished at the polls.
It remains to be seen what the impact will be for Colnbrook should the Radlett scheme get the go ahead. Goodman’s SIFE proposal has been held “in abeyance” pending the Radlett result. Opposition to both schemes was largely on the basis the other was a better alternative site, but earlier Government policy suggested a need for a network of SRFI’s around the M25.
Despite the tactics of the STRiFE campaign, this website wishes the anti-Radlett protesters a last minute reprieve on Monday. Like SIFE the development proposed is primarily a road-to-road interchange. It would be devastating to the environment and the local community. Most of all it would be a kick in the teeth for local democracy and a very hard fought campaign.