Hert’s imminent land sale decision could resolve impasse over Colnbrook SIFE
The deadlock over next steps in Goodman’s SIFE application could be resolved soon. An imminent decision by Hertfordshire County Council could either confirm the rival Radlett development and effectively bury the Colnbrook proposal, or see a SIFE appeal early in the new year.
Twelve months to the day since Communities secretary Eric Pickles gave his “minded to approve” decision there should be movement over the proposed Radlett rail freight development, with clear consequences for Colnbrook.
While Government strategy in 2004 talked of a network of four ‘strategic rail freight interchanges’ around London rival proponents of schemes at Colnbrook and Radlett have managed to thwart each others plans. That was, until last Christmas, when Pickles withdrew his earlier preference for a “conjoined” Inquiry and gave preliminary go-ahead to the bigger Radlett development – on the proviso that the landowner and developer could reach an understanding.
Several extensions have since been given to a deadline issued by Pickles for Herts and developer Helioslough to come to an S106 agreement, most recently to November 14. On Monday a Herts County Council cabinet meeting requested a further extension to December 20 in order to allow sufficient time to “complete actions authorised by cabinet in February”.
They said this will give them time to gather more information to enable councillors to make an informed decision at additional meetings of the Policy, Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel on December 9.
At the meeting the council will finally decide whether or not to sell the land that would make the scheme possible.
There has been massive opposition to the proposed development with several debates in Parliament and over 10,000 signatories to a petition. It falls to elected representatives there to choose to bow to public opinion and refuse to sell, risking the scheme being imposed on them anyway by central government – or risk the wrath of the electorate. While 46 out of 77 council seats at Herts County Council are overwhelmingly Tory a number are marginal. St. Alban’s Conservative MP, Anne Main, was reduced to a 4% majority in the 2010 election.
Opposition group STRiFE, quiet since January, developer Helioslough and St Albans District Council have been invited to speak at the meeting. STRiFE, which has long sought to push the development over to Colnbrook, ironically uses a scale drawing of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to show the impact of the development on its own Green Belt.
Derrick Ashley, Herts’ cabinet member for resources and transformation, said:
We are well aware of local anxiety about this application and would like to thank residents in the Radlett area for their patience over the last few months while we have carried out extensive research into this complex case. We will hear the findings of this work at the Panel and Cabinet meetings and this will allow councillors to make a fully informed, rational decision about this very important matter.
Six weeks ago Slough’s Planning Department told Colnbrook Views that the appeal for SIFE remained ‘in abeyance’ while all parties agreed “to wait until there has been a decision on the potential alternative site for rail freight at Radlett”.
By the end of the year the hotly anticipated Davies Commission on Aviation Expansion should also have determined whether the SIFE site appears on its shortlist of preferred options.