Radlett fires a slingshot at Pickles as it REFUSES to sell land for freight interchange
Herts Council Council today unexpectedly defied its own lawyers and challenged Secretary of State Eric Pickles over the proposed Radlett freight interchange, extending the impasse over Colnbrook SIFE indefinitely.
Residents of Radlett will be justifiably celebrating today as councillors there stuck their necks out to reject the proposed freight interchange.
At a packed meeting this morning at Hertfordshire’s County Hall, council leader Cllr Robert Gordon surprised those attending by announcing the decision not to sell the land that would make the Radlett scheme possible.
Pickles’ minded to approve decision last December was conditional on the county council reaching agreement with developer Helioslough.
Legal counsel for Herts had insisted that the Council had no choice but to sell the land as it could not go against Mr Pickles’ decision. Consequently, officers had told councillors, “in the light of its fiduciary duty to its taxpayers” the council must enter into a s.106 agreement with Helioslough or face legal challenge and costs.
Herts has agreed to enter a s106 planning obligation in respect of the land, but has stated this does not imply its support for the scheme.
We have a legal gun pointed at our heads, but that is as far as I am prepared to go today.
However, the council has directly challenged Mr Pickles, announcing that it disagrees with the Secretary of State’s conclusion that factors weighing in favour of the scheme outweighed the harm. It has demanded that Pickles instead reviews his conclusion.
More significantly, it has deferred any decision on the possible sale of the land pending an “absolute decision” by Mr Pickles and the final outcome of any legal challenge.
And it has demanded that Mr Pickles reaches his final decision against an up to date position, including the merits of alternative sites which may have since emerged – suggesting a THIRD inquiry could be on the cards.
Even then, the council says that, should planning consent be granted, it would still make its own decision on the sale of the site, based on any alternative “rational” uses of the site as well as its “fiduciary duty”.
St Albans MP, Anne Main, who spoke at the meeting, said the Green Belt site could have other uses such as recreation, housing or a new school.
The county would be wisest to serve its electorate by choosing to use its asset at a time best for Hertfordshire and not Helioslough.
She urged the council to hold on to the site.
The ball, as they say, is now firmly back in Mr Pickles’ court!