An MP has used parliamentary privilege to step up the campaign against a 3.5m sq ft Hertfordshire rail freight hub.
St Albans MP Anne Main, opposing Segro’s 3.5m sq ft Radlett rail freight logistics hub, has spoken in the House of Commons about “private meetings” before a government U-turn to support the development.
The MP said in the House of Commons: “I have found out about private meetings that are not declared on websites. What more can be done to ensure that Departments do not hide behind evasive answers when Back Benchers are trying to find out about the decision-making process that has gone on?”
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced on 21st December last year that he was minded to approve the Segro plan, which involves 300 acres of metropolitan green belt. It reversed the decision he took in 2010 when he stepped in to halt the green belt plan.
In January St Albans City and District Council announced that it would be challenging the Secretary of State’s decision not to conjoin the Radlett appeal and a separate appeal on rail freight development at Colebrook. Separating the two enquiries cleared the way to approving the Radlett application.
Mrs Main said: “I completely agree with the council’s decision; there was no explanation of the about turn in the Secretary of State’s position given his strong support for conjoined inquires mere months before. I, along with the Council, wrote to the Secretary of State to support conjoined inquires as we believe that seen side by side it strengthens our argument.
“The Secretary of State said that conjoining the inquiries would, “lead to a more coherent and consistent decision making process overall”, and I agree. I do not understand why he did not follow through with conjoining the inquiries and we have been given no reason why he did not. What changed? I am suspicious that it had more to do with national economic strategy than planning policy. We continue to fight until the very end; we will explore every avenue in Parliament and outside to expose the decision making process.”
In a statement Segro said: "We are encouraged that the Secretary of State is minded to approve our proposal and we are now carefully considering the further requirements requested by the Secretary of State."
"Our proposal for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange at Radlett will deliver a major economic boost and jobs to the local area and wider UK. Economic research demonstrates the project would generate 3,760 jobs and £101m in annual economic benefits. Facilities like this attract new business investment including international employers and help the environment by moving freight off the road."