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DERAILED: Radlett rail freight plans to go ahead as opposition loses by two votes

 Published on: 25th May 2023   |   By: Darius Morgan   |   Category: Uncategorized

Controversial plans to introduce a rail freight interchange at the former Radlett airfield are set to go ahead after an attempt to derail them lost by just two votes.

St Albans councillor Sandy Walkington’s last-ditch attempt to stop Hertfordshire County Council from proceeding to sell the land for the SEGRO freight terminal south of St Albans lost by two votes yesterday (Wednesday, May 24).

Cllr Walkington presented a series of arguments about the significant changes in circumstances since planning permission was granted in 2014 to members of the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee.  In particular, he questioned a deal which will “leave Hertfordshire’s council tax payers with unquantifiable bills for highway improvements and maintenance” since only some of the road improvements are to be funded by SEGRO.

He said: “It was really frustrating. Afterwards councillors of all parties and officers told me how strong my arguments had been. Some of my points were not even addressed by the officers. But when it came to the vote, everything proceeded down dreary party tramlines.  Every Conservative present voted to agree the sale and that was enough to win by two votes.  It is a desperately sad day for Hertfordshire.”

HCC is one of three major landowners of the former airbase, with all parties needing to agree for the land to be sold. In November, it was announced that real estate investment trust, SEGRO, had submitted an offer for the acquisition of the land, and in a council meeting on December 12, HCC publicly agreed to the sale.

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, has also been vehement in her opposition to selling off the land. In her maiden speech to parliament in 2019, she described how “a significant chunk of our green belt is at risk from the monstrosity of a rail and lorry freight terminal”.

You can read more about the fight against the rail freight plans here.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “We note the outcome of Wednesday’s overview and scrutiny committee. As the committee agreed that the called-in decision can be implemented, officers will continue to seek to obtain the best outcome and value for all Hertfordshire residents in line with the wishes of cabinet.”

A spokesperson for SEGRO said: “SEGRO has a long standing proposal to develop a rail freight terminal along with associated warehousing on the Radlett Aerodrome site which would help create sustainable employment opportunities, stimulate economic growth, and enhance local infrastructure and amenities, including the establishment of a 247-hectare country park that will surround the terminal.

“The scheme has been tested thoroughly through a very rigorous planning process, which resulted in approval from the Secretary of State. We remain confident in the potential of the proposed development to deliver these socio-economic benefits.

“We are aware that Hertfordshire County Council has been going through its own independent process to further examine SEGRO’s offer to acquire its proportion of the land. We have had no influence over this process. Discussions with all land owners are ongoing.”

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