Hertfordshire MPs Oliver Dowden (Hertsmere), Anne Main (St Albans) and Bim Afolami (Hitchin & Harpenden), have written a joint letter calling for the site of the proposed Radlett rail freight terminal to be used for housing instead.
In a letter to the Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, Cllr David Williams, the MPs set out their support for a Park Street garden village while urging Cllr Williams not to sell the site to rail freight developers, Helioslough.
Speaking today Mr Dowden said: ‘I have always said I do not want any development of this green belt land. But if it must be developed, it is ludicrous that the land can have planning permission for a disruptive and unnecessary rail freight terminal, but bids for desperately needed homes cannot be considered.
‘As a result I am very pleased that St Albans Council are now considering the site and the proposal for a garden village for inclusion within their Local Plan.
‘It is important to make clear to the County Council that there is still another option on the table and they should not sell the land to the rail freight developers.’
The decision to examine the site and the garden village proposal was taken by a meeting of the St Albans Planning Policy Committee on 18 June 2018.
The site is currently largely owned by Hertfordshire County Council. Like any public body, the County Council are under a fiduciary duty to make sure they get best value for money for taxpayers. This includes considering offers to buy surplus land owned by the County Council.
In the case of the rail freight site, if the County Council received an offer for the land from the rail freight developers, this duty means they may well have no choice but to sell.
However, if the site was designated in the St Albans Local Plan as suitable for housing development, the value of the land would increase enormously.
Mr Dowden added: ‘Firstly, I do not believe Hertfordshire County Council are required to sell the site to Helioslough.
However, secondly, should they be ultimately required to sell, I believe that the proper discharge of their fiduciary duty means they need to consider the potential increased value of the land should it be included in the St Albans Local Plan for housing.
‘Any premature sale of the site therefore risks significantly undervaluing it and would not achieve best value for the taxpayers of Hertfordshire.
The letter to Cllr Williams came following a meeting in Parliament between Mr Dowden, Mrs Main and the campaigning group STRIFE, who have been working to stop the terminal since it was first proposed.