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‘BITTERLY DISAPPOINTING’: Activist group denied judicial review into sale of Radlett airfield

 Published on: 19th June 2024   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Uncategorized

Campaigners fighting plans for a freight terminal at the former Radlett airfield are considering whether to appeal after a judge denied their application for a judicial review.

Save St Albans: Fight the Freight claimed that Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) unlawfully sold the land to developers SEGRO. They say that when the council agreed to buy the land in the mid-1980s for just £1, it was on the condition it was preserved as permanent open space.

But in the High Court on June 11, Mrs Justice Leiven ruled that although that may have been the intention of councillors at the time, the land was not used as open space. She pointed to two witness statements from local farmer Andrew Woollatt. She said that because he had occupied the land since 1972, it meant it was not open space under the terms of the Open Spaces Act.

“It’s bitterly disappointing,” said councillor Nuala Webb, one of the campaign leaders.

Campaigners were also frustrated that key legal documents, correspondence and council meeting minutes from the period either side of the sale agreement are missing.

“It’s astonishing that HCC, one of the defendants in this case, are also custodians of key evidence yet insisted they couldn’t find it,” said cllr Webb.

Save St Albans: Fight the Freight raised more than £60,000 to cover legal fees to take the case to the High Court.

Councillor Terrie Smith, one of the campaign leaders, said: “We now have to consider our options. We will consider an appeal. Support from the local community has been fantastic and we want to thank everyone who has donated. We believe we have grounds to appeal but we have to mindful of the potential costs and how an appeal could be funded.”

David Fosdyck KC, the barrister for SEGRO, also appeared to criticise the way HCC had handled the sale, stating that had SEGRO known there were grounds for the sale to be challenged, they might have abandoned their purchase.

A spokesperson for HCC said: “The decision taken by the Judge to dismiss the case prior to a judicial review is welcome. We will now turn our attention to working with the local district council to maximise the economic benefits that the sale will bring.”

SEGRO has already started work on the site in preparation for the freight terminal, which the campaigners allege includes a warehouse bigger than Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.

SEGRO has been contacted for comment.

Photo credit: Save St Albans Fight the Freight

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