SIFE decision due within next two weeks as offshore status of Goodman’s Colnbrook holding raises eyebrows

It has taken nearly six years but a decision on the Slough International Freight Exchange, or SIFE as it more commonly known, will be with us imminently.

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 Planning Inspectorate has confirmed to Colnbrook Views that the appeal decision for the Slough International Freight Exchange will is due to be issued “on or before 28 April 2016”.

The massive freight interchange being promoted by Goodman Plc – actually, three separate warehouses each three times the size of Terminal 5 – was first applied for in 2010.  It was unaminously rejected by Slough’s Planning Committee on 8th September 2011 for its “inappropriate location” and impact on Brands Hill air quality.

The company, listed on the Australian stock exchange, purchased the biggest part of the 183 acre site north of the Colnbrook By-pass for just over £17 million in 2009 – through its offshore registered subsidiary Goodman Colnbrook (Jersey) Ltd.  The purchase of other parts of the site are understood to have taken the total investment to well over £20 million.

Goodman Colnbrook (Jersey) was set up on 6th March 2008.  Two ‘subscribers’, or shareholders, are listed against the official returns of the company, both based in St Helier, Jersey.  Since 2008 the company has fulfilled its required to submit an annual return to the Jersey authorities, which simply summarises that 2 shares have been issued.  The company has no legal requirement to file annual accounts.

Even prior to the current scandal around the Panama Papers the Government has flagged the complexity of determining who owns property held in offshore vehicles as a source of concern, as well as the difficulties in enforcing payment of taxes due.  The practice, however, is not illegal.

Goodman Colnbrook (Jersey) filed its most recent paperwork on 15th February 2016.

An inquiry into the Goodman’s appeal ran into three weeks last September with the Planning Inspectorate insisting that that it should proceed despite the Airports Commission backing Heathrow’s case to build a Third Runway on the same site.

Goodman indicated that, should a Third Runway be approved, it would still go ahead with building and operating the freight interchange for a year or so until Heathrow forced its demolition.  That was dismissed by Colnbrook Parish Council’s Cllr Dexter Smith at the time as a “wasteful absurdity” and “corporate greed” while the Colnbrook Community Association described it as a cynical ploy to increase the land value before a compulsory purchase.

 

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