SIFE Vs Radlett: Was Mr Clark’s decision consistent with Mr Pickles’?
On the face of it why should one freight depot be approved and one rejected? While open countryside, both sites are former landfill, any question that a network of SRFIs around London also ruled that both sites would complementary rather than competing with each other.
In a 32-page decision letter in 2012, Mr Pickles said he did attach “substantial weight” to the harm that would be caused to the Green Belt at Radlett, along with “loss of openness”, a “significant encroachment into the countryside”, and “adverse effects on landscape and on ecology”.
However he also attributed “very considerable weight” to the lack of more appropriate alternative locations for an SRFI in the north west sector [of London], including Colnbrook, which would cause less harm to the Green Belt. Overall he found that “these considerations, taken together, outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and the other harms he has identified including the conflicts with the development plan and that they amount to very special circumstances”.
In giving his backing to the 217-page inspector’s report from 2010, Mr Pickles notably made reference to the Strategic Gap – that part of the Metropolitan Green Belt most threatened.
The appeal decision stated that:
“The Secretary of State observes that Slough’s Core Strategy states that development will only be permitted in the Strategic Gap ‘if it is essential to be in that location’ and, in common with the Inspector (IR13.100), he attributes substantial weight to the Strategic Gap designation. Having taken account of the Inspector’s analysis and the other evidence submitted on this matter, the Secretary of State sees little reason to conclude that Colnbrook would meet the needs for an SRFI in a less harmful way than the appeal site”.
… the Secretary of State has been persuaded by the irreparable harm that would be caused to this very sensitive part of the Green Belt in the Colnbrook area …
The equivalent decision letter for Colnbrook disputed the level of carbon emission reductions from would be gained from SIFE, while concluding that “very special circumstances” had not been justified.
“In common with the Inspector in her conclusion reached by the inspector, the Secretary of State has been persuaded by the irreparable harm that would be caused to this very sensitive part of the Green Belt in the Colnbrook area, leading to the high level of weight he attaches to this consideration.Overall, the Secretary of State concludes that the benefits of the scheme do not clearly overcome the harm. Consequently very special circumstances do not exist to justify the development. Furthermore, he finds that planning conditions would not be able to overcome the fundamental harms caused to the Green Belt, Strategic Gap and Colne Valley Park and the open environment enjoyed by the local community.
In addition, he has concluded that the proposal does not have the support of the NPS because very special circumstances have not been demonstrated.”