SIFE High Court challenge could add £millions to cost of Third Runway
A High Court challenge mounted by SIFE developer Goodman could, if successful, be bad news for Heathrow.
Goodman Logistics is asking a judge to order the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to reconsider its proposal for the Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE), a massive freight interchange on Colnbrook’s Green Belt – according to the weekend’s Slough Observer.
Goodman’s appeal against the rejection of SIFE by Slough Borough Council was dismissed last July following a three-week public inquiry in September 2015. However the victory for local campaigners, after a six year fight to protect the site, was short lived with backing for a Third Runway on the site, north of the A4 Colnbrook Bypass, announced in October.
There was speculation following the decision that Goodman would take its claim to the High Court.
Goodman now claims the decision to reject its planning application was “unlawful”, arguing that:
- National policy had identified a “compelling need” for an expanded network of strategic rail-freight interchanges (SRFIs).
- Because of the clear argument in favour of them, Green Belt land will inevitably have to be used to serve London and the South East.
- The Secretary of State failed to apply Local Plan policy properly or give adequate reasons explaining his decision, particularly in the absence of any identified alternative site in the area.
The paper includes a quote from the Colnbrook Resident’s Association. Chair Sean Kelly said: “We are dead against it but unfortunately the judge is going to make the final decision.”
The news is hardly surprising. 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.
A Heathrow representative monitored much of the public hearing into SIFE, being singled out from the audience by the inspector at the start. Heathrow opted not to directly participate in proceedings, however, despite it strategic interest in the site.
During the inquiry Goodman confirmed that, even if Heathrow was granted permission for a Third Runway, it would still build on the 183-acre site, accepting that it may well be demolished just one year later to make room for a runway.
Agricultural land value has dipped sharply in the last six months of 2016 and is expected to continue falling into 2017. One recent survey puts the average price of farmland in England and Wales at just £8,000 per acre. Meanwhile commercial land value in and around London can reach as much as £2 million per acre.
Goodman was roundly condemned for a ploy dismissed at the inquiry by the Parish Council as “wasteful absurdity” and “corporate greed”. Cllr Smith pointed out that no major customer would take space in the new units knowing they would have to move out again shortly after. The Colnbrook Community Association rounded on Goodman’s “greed”.
According to the Observer, the judge is expected to give a decision in writing at “a later date”.
Clearly, Heathrow will be watching very closely.