375 people attended the Council’s Planning Referrals Committee meeting at the Alban Arena on 19th February at 7pm, to determine the Rail Freight application submitted by Helioslough Ltd. 256 people watched the live webcast of the proceedings.
At a previous meeting 1st November 2006, the Committee announced that it was minded to refuse the application, but was unable to make a final decision because the applicant had not provided sufficient information to the Highways Agency, to enable them to submit a report. The Highways Agency has since confirmed to the Council that the transport assessment is inadequate and they are unable to determine the impact of the development and now recommend refusal of the application.
The Planning Committee considered the application and the report from the Highways Agency and decided to refuse planning permission for the following reasons:-
The site is within the Metropolitan Green Belt in the Hertfordshire County Structure Plan and St Albans District Local Plan Review 1994.
The size, height and scale of the development would damage the open character of the Green Belt between Park Street and London Colney. It would also be out of character with the adjoining villages of Park Street, Frogmore and Napsbury and have a detrimental effect on the adjacent conservation areas.
The proposal for the country park, landscape and ecological improvements intended to offset the losses associated with the development are unacceptable and the funding plans aren’t clearly defined.
Network Rail have not confirmed the rail capacity so it is unclear whether the proposed development will achieve the benefits intended by increasing rail freight at the expense of road freight.
The survey on noise levels indicates unacceptably high levels of noise at night-time for residents on the eastern side of Park Street and Frogmore.
The use of 20 metre high masts with floodlighting across the railway sidings and freight interchange are likely to have adverse effects on the highway and to local residents.
The applicants’ traffic assessment indicates an expected increase in traffic on the A414 of over 10%. As the A414 is already near capacity, Hertfordshire’s County Council and Hertfordshire Highways have concerns with the following aspects:-
Safety and congestion likely to be caused by the new proposed roundabout on the A414 which has insufficient capacity for queuing traffic.
The ability of the proposed traffic lights at Park Street and London Colney roundabouts to handle the increase in traffic.
The possibility that the amount of new traffic generated may have been underestimated.
The impact of changing traffic flows on the A5183 and the Park Street / Frogmore bypass is inadequately assessed.
That the target of achieving 35% of journeys in shared cars is unachievable.
The applicant has failed to take measures to offset the harm to the local ecology and archaeology.
The adverse impact on highway safety for users of the motorway and trunk road network in the wider locality.
Helioslough Ltd have 6 months in which to appeal to the Secretary of State, against the Council’s decision. If the appeal is accepted, this will be heard within a timeframe set by the Planning Inspectorate.
The proceedings were broadcast live via a webcast on the Council’s website, to enable many people to watch from home. An archived file of the webcast is available to view on the Council’s home page, www.stalbans.gov.uk under quick links to online services and will be there until September 2007.
The Council intends to extend the use of webcasting in future, as part of its commitment to use technology to improve services and access for our customers and provide an open and transparent decision-making process.
People with a disability were able to book seats in advance and a signer was present. The Police and members of St John’s Ambulance were also in attendance to ensure everyone’s safety.
Dean Goodman, Head of Planning and Building Control commented: ’The Council has now given a clear and unambiguous decision on this major project. The proposal for a Rail Freight interchange has generated significant interest and in reaching its decision, the Council has listened carefully to all those who expressed a view. Thank you to all those who contacted us.’
For any queries relating to the planning application, please contact the Planning Department on 01727 819345.
Davina Mansell, Press Officer