Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, has revealed that the Conservative-led Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) failed to contact the Department for Transport (DfT) about the controversial new rail freight terminal in Radlett.
HCC previously announced plans to sell Radlett Airfield to enable a new rail freight interchange to be built, despite fears it could blight green belt land and put thousands more lorries on roads in St Albans.
Two legal opinions have claimed that HCC could refuse to sell the land should there be a “change in circumstances” regarding if the terminal is still considered viable or necessary. Daisy Cooper MP has used a Parliamentary process to reveal that HCC hasn’t contacted DfT regarding stopping the plans.
On March 8, Daisy Cooper MP asked whether the Ministry for Transport had had any correspondence with HCC regarding the county’s rail freight requirements.
A reply from Transport Minister Huw Merriman on March 13 confirmed that “there have been no recent direct discussions with, or correspondence received from, HCC in relation to changes to rail freight capacity requirements”.
This latest information obtained by Daisy Cooper MP comes in the light of the latest legal opinion obtained by local campaign group Save St Albans: Fight the Freight from barrister Paul Brown KC. His advice confirms that HCC is entitled to refuse to sell the land to enable the terminal to be built.
Daisy Cooper MP said: “It simply defies belief that the Conservative-led HCC can claim there haven’t been any significant changes in circumstance, when it seems it hasn’t even bothered to look for any.
“Any landowner not wanting to sell its land would have bent over backwards to look into this. It leaves HCC’s claim that they are a ‘reluctant seller’ in tatters.”
A spokesperson for HCC said: “As part of the sale process, the county council has sought and received external updated opinion from Counsel. We have made this advice public for review by any interested parties. Due to commercial sensitivity, a small section has been redacted but the premise remains that following the approval by the Secretary of State for a strategic rail freight interchange on this site, we are obligated to sell our land interest if a number of conditions are met.”
Hertfordshire Conservatives have been contacted for comment.