SIFE: what Clark said about the impact on Colnbrook’s Green Belt, the “special needs” test, air quality … and Heathrow’s rival claim

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has had the report from September’s SIFE inquiry on his desk for nearly six months.  Here’s what he said about the impact on Colnbrook’s Green Belt, the “special needs” test, air quality … and Heathrow’s rival claim to the same site.


Planning inspector, Diane Lewis, made her recommendations on SIFE in a 137-page report to the Government as long ago as 26th January.  The Secretary of State says he has given “very careful consideration to the Inspector’s concluding remarks”, accepting them in their entirety.

Here’s what he had to say:

Green Belt

  • The appeal proposal would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt and would be harmful as such.
  • In the absence of very special circumstances, it would conflict with national policies and with the Slough Core Strategy.
  • The introduction of major development on the site, even if enclosed within well-defined boundaries, would not assist in checking sprawl and hence would conflict with a purpose of the Green.

Strategic Gap

  • Even with a high quality landscape scheme, the presence of SIFE would cause irreparable harm to the Strategic Gap.

Colne Valley Park

  • Goodman’s Landscape and Green Infrastructure Strategy would be likely to deliver a high quality landscape scheme and improvements to the public rights of way network and the objectives for the Park would be supported by a proportionate financial contribution towards the improvement of access, habitat enhancement and other initiatives.
  • There would be a loss of the intangible countryside feel and associated amenity could not be adequately replaced.

Landscape character and visual effect

  • The Secretary of State accepts the Inspector’s conclusion that the effects on visual amenity would be most acutely experienced by those living in the area as they travel to and from home or when viewing the landscape in leisure time.

Highways and Traffic

  • Improvements can be undertaken within the transport network that would effectively limit the significant impacts of the development.

Air quality

  • The proposed development with appropriate mitigation would comply with Core Policy 8 of the Slough Core Strategy.
  • The slight adverse effect on air quality has limited weight.


  • The proposal offers opportunities to conserve and enhance biodiversity.

Flood risk and water resources

  • The development, incorporating the proposed mitigation measures, would not increase flood risk.

Local communities and cumulative impact

  • Despite Goodman and SBC agreeing that WRATH and the relocation of the HEx depot relocation to Langley are unlikely to have a significant effect during construction and operation the Inspector notes that there is a degree of uncertainty.
  • Base traffic flows on the A4 at Brands Hill may increase over and above the predicted growth due to the implementation of other schemes.


  • The current policy need for a regional network has not been overcome by the SRFI at Radlett and SIFE is able to be regarded as a complementary facility as part of a wider network.
  • Perpetuating the status quo, which means relying on existing operational rail freight interchanges, is not a viable option.
  • There is a reasonable probability that Radlett will be operational in 2018 and there is the prospect of Howbury Park being progressed to implementation. In addition, rail connected warehousing is under development in Barking. However, the geographical spread is uneven. There is a noticeable gap in provision on the west side of London, with Radlett being complementary to rather than an alternative to SIFE.
  • SIFE would contribute to the development of a network of SRFI in London and the South East and a wider national network in accordance with the policy objective of the NPS.

Alternative sites

  • There is no identified alternative site to SIFE, in the sense of being capable of fulfilling the same purpose, serving the same markets and being geographically comparable in order to achieve the desired spread of SRFIs round Greater London.

Transport links and location requirements

  • SIFE would have the transport links and location attributes to fulfil the NPS requirements to a very good standard.

Transfer from road to rail

  • The risk of not attaining a high level of rail use would be low (IR 12.148).

Carbon emissions

  • The reduction in carbon emissions as a result of SIFE facilitating the movement of freight by rail is a positive factor and affords it moderate weight.

Economy and jobs

  • Beneficial economic aspects of the development would be felt in the area both during construction and operation and would thereby promote national policy objectives to secure economic growth.


  • Given the current position and uncertainty over whether or not a new north runway at Heathrow will be progressed, no weight was given to this matter in the “Green Belt balancing exercise”.


  • The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that there may be a problem with site assembly, but the ability to deliver SIFE is a neutral matter that counts neither for nor against the development.
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