Latest twist in Radlett freight depot saga could put pressure on Colnbrook SIFE appeal

The lastest twist in the ten year impasse over a proposed rail freight interchange in Hertfordshire could add pressure for the massive SIFE development in Colnbrook to be approved.

An artist's impression of the westernmost of three intermodal freight warehouses planned for Colnbrook.

An artist’s impression of the westernmost of three intermodal freight warehouses planned for Colnbrook.

Hertfordshire County Council is considering a 2,000-home ‘garden village’ as an alternative to allowing the freight depot, despite planning permission already being granted on appeal.  The ploy could remove a key objection to the rival Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE) development in Colnbrook – that the Radlett facility could more than meet the demand.

In December 2013 Hertfordshire County Council, which owns part of the land sought by developer Helioslough, announced it would refuse to sell.  The decision ignored the advice of experts who had noted the Council’s “fiduciary duty to its taxpayers” following former Secretary of State Eric Pickles’ minded to approve decision.

Now, follows the council’s decision to actively seek alternative uses for the 119-hectare former gravel pit site, an approach has been made by developer Taylor Wimpey.  The house builder proposes creating a new “garden village development” of 2,000 homes.  And that could sit nicely with another Government policy.

The development would include community services, a primary school, allotments, employment facilities, and potentially a park and ride scheme, new station and guided bus or light railway.  The scheme could fit the criteria for one of the Government’s flagship policies – 12 new garden villages of between 1,500 to 10,000 homes around the country.

An initial report, which be discussed by a Herts’ cabinet panel on Monday.

Open meadowland north of the Colnbrook By-pass could be lost under a Third Runway or SIFE.

Open meadowland north of the Colnbrook By-pass could be lost under a Third Runway or SIFE.

Helioslough remains “absolutely committed” to progressing the freight interchange and is preparing to submit an offer for the land.  Herts, however, says its prime duty is to the residents of Hertfordshire and the council remained opposed to the proposed freight depot.

Council leader Cllr Robert Gordon told the Hertfordshire Advertiser:

“We would prefer not to see a change in the current green belt status of this land and would also prefer not to sell it. However, it is possible that circumstances might arise where we have no lawful alternative but to sell.

“We therefore actively contacted developers to see if any alternative uses could be found for the land which would achieve at least the equivalent value as a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange.”

St Albans MP Anne Main, who has called in the past for the freight depot to be built in Colnbrook, has said that anything would better than the freight interchange and believes residents would rather see a garden village built on the site.

However, protest group STRiFE – Stop The Rail Freight Exchange have expressed opposition.

In April the long awaited decision on September’s appeal into SIFE was delayed by the Government until after the Local Elections on 5th May – although nobody seriously believes that the decision is not intertwined with the pending decision on a Third Runway through the same site.  And that, as we know, is on hold pending the Tory leadership election on Friday, 9th September.

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