UK – Following yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle much is being made regarding the divisions between Conservative and Liberal Democrat interests in Government and no issue illustrates the potential relationship problems more than the seemingly never ending rows over schemes like the third Heathrow runway or the development of the disused Radlett airfield near St. Albans into a fully inter modal rail freight terminal. We have been covering this multi modal facility story for some years and yet, like the phoenix from the flames, the old bird keeps flapping despite several ’final decisions’ to kill it off completely.
With regard to the current situation there comes an eerie silence from the offices of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who having personally dismissed the plan once now has the job of issuing another decision. The history of the case through the Courts is best tracked through our news archives via the search option but suffice it to say that developers Helioslough have engaged the services of lobbyist Simon Hoare, two time former Conservative candidate and presumed chum of the Prime Minister (he sits on David Cameron’s constituency executive).
Local Liberal Democrats have been quick to criticise Mr Hoare and ex Transport Minister Justine Greening (now shuffled down to International Development) following their recent meeting while Liberal stalwart Vince Cable refused such an invitation saying the St Albans development lacked local support unlike several other multi modal schemes also in the pipeline.
The Helioslough website is no longer functioning but the developer is part of the London headquartered Segro industrial property group which has a Slough office in addition to others throughout western Europe and the Czech Republic. John Thompson from Helioslough spoke to the Handy Shipping Guide today to confirm that the company was still awaiting any decision from the Government as to the final fate of the scheme.
The decision which now rests firmly back with Mr Pickles could cost the Conservatives dearly if they perform a spectacular U turn having dismissed the scheme in the past. The Campaign to Protect Rural England in Hertfordshire (CPRE) issued a statement recently saying they feared that current Government intentions to develop housing and leisure facilities whilst improving transport infrastructure, coupled with more relaxed planning regulations will inevitably mean the Radlett scheme will be passed.
Eric Pickles latest statement was to the effect that no decision would be forthcoming until early July. That date having long gone means that the silence from the Local Government office has been deafening and the previously vociferous campaigners against the plan, STRIFE, have also been quietly waiting more news, with maintenance of opponents views left to the blog of local Liberal candidate Sandy Walkington.
A spokesman for the CPRE said yesterday that the Green Belt remained at the forefront of world environmental protection policies but remained under threat from politicians who came under pressure when ‘false promises’ of a construction boom seemed an easy path to prosperity. The CPRE believes the correct route is to regenerate decaying urban areas with Planning Manager, Steve Baker, adding:
"Whilst a railfreight interchange is welcome in principle, the very special circumstances necessary for locating it on this site in the Green Belt have not been demonstrated. This development would have a massive impact on the area south of St. Albans, in terms of loss of Green Belt, loss of open countryside, traffic generation and air pollution, undermining the quality of life of thousands of local residents."
To view how this proposed development has lingered on simply type a suitable keyword (St Albans – Helioslough etc.) into the News Search Box.
Photo: Helioslough’s parent company Segro has an impressive portfolio of industrial developments across Europe and the UK.