Spectre of SIFE raised by Radlett freight interchange decision
The Government’s decision yesterday to approve a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange at Radlett raises the spectre of the massive SIFE project being resurrected in Colnbrook – with or without a Third Runway.
An eight year battle to prevent a massive freight warehouse being built on Green Belt at Radlett appears to be lost with an appeal decision yesterday by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles siding with the developer.
But while the fate of the similar Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE) appeared to be intertwined with the scheme for the former Radlett Aerodrome, with Pickles himself proposing to hold a “conjoined inquiry” in 2012, there is no cause for celebration for Colnbrook residents.
While most have assumed SIFE now to be dead – with the 183 acres earmarked for the project now forming part of Heathrow Airport Ltd’s Third Runway land grab – the project may yet be resurrected.
Wording in the text of Pickles’ decision notice issued yesterday, coupled with small print in both Third Runway submissions, raises the spectre of a similar development in Colnbrook – regardless of whether or not a Third Runway is granted in 2015.
“The SRFI Policy Guidance published on 29 November 2011 states that only one SRFI had been granted planning consent in the whole of the South East region and advises that SRFI capacity needs to be provided at a wide range of locations, particularly but not exclusively serving London and the South East.”
More worryingly, deep in the small print of both rival Third Runway submissions ambitions are revealed for further freight-related expansion, as yet unquantified.
If you thought Heathrow Hub’s Poyle runway would avoid the loss of the large Green Belt site north of the Colnbrook By-pass, think again.
While Heathrow Hub’s revised Davies submission suggested that impacts on the Colne Valley Regional Park could be mitigated by accommodating “an extension within the green belt land to the east of the M25 and south of the M4”, it goes on to suggest the same land could instead be used for expansion of freight services, specifically SIFE:
“In addition our initial discussions with some of the authorities suggest that there could be opportunities for new or alternative uses for some sites (such as the proposed Intermodal Freight Exchange [sic] to the north of the A4 Colnbrook bypass).”
Hub raises the nightmare scenario of the loss of a huge swathe of Green Belt north and south of the village, effectively rendering the village an island within the airport.
And Heathrow’s own proposal does not rule out the need for a further land grab even if it gets its way on a Third Runway over the SIFE site:
“We will develop a new cargo consolidation centre to reduce freight deliveries and HGV movements to and from the airport. We will also look at whether there is a case for connecting the cargo centre to the rail network.”
For Radlett, campaigners continue to insist that the proposed scheme will largely be a road to road interchange.
There remains a last window of opportunity to stop the development: any party wishing to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision in the High Court must do so by no later than Friday 22 August.
But councils are treading carefully to establish if they have sufficient grounds after previous costly failed attempts. Cllr Julian Daly, St Albans Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning and Conservation said:
“The Council is carefully considering whether it has grounds to challenge the decision and is currently discussing the matter with its legal advisors.”
The town’s NIMBY MP Anne Main – who has focused on pushing the development to Colnbrook (among several “alternative” sites) rather than on the scheme’s poor credentials – has still suggested that Hertfordshire County Council could yet refuse to sell the land, although this seems unlikely.
Expansion of Daventry rail freight terminal approved
In the absence of specific national policy statements the secretary of state based his decision on Logistics Growth Review – Connecting People with Goods and the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange Policy Guidance published in November 2011 which found that “such developments were critical to the expansion of rail freight and would support the transfer of freight from road to rail.”