Hertfordshire County Council’s decision to sell-off the former Radlett Aerodrome site in St Albans, is to be reviewed next week after it was ‘called-in’ by Liberal Democrats.
The site on North Orbital Road has been earmarked as a strategic rail freight interchange for a number of years, with planning permission granted by the Secretary of State in 2014.
In December last year, councillors agreed in principle to sell their 119-hectare section of the site to Segro.
As work on the sale has progressed, campaigners have continued to oppose the development of the site and 10 Lib Dem county councillors have ‘called-in’ the decision for review.
As a result, on Wednesday (May 24) a ‘special’ meeting of the council’s scrutiny and overview committee will he held to consider the council’s decision.
According to Cllr Walkington, who leads the councils Lib Dem’s, a number of issues related to the sale ‘remain unclear’ and he wants the committee to now consider whether there have been major changes in circumstances since the Secretary of State granted planning permission.
He points to Brexit and its impact on trade flows and to changes in e-commerce as factors that could be considered as significant changes and councillors also need reassurance that the ‘travel and freight monitoring and management plan’ will ‘have teeth’.
He has also highlighted the cost of the required highways improvements, suggesting that councillors would need to be confident that ‘the full costs’ would be paid by Segro.
Commenting on the need for scrutiny, Cllr Walkington said: “Councillors should have the opportunity of probing these important concerns and making sure they have been taken into account in the proposed deal.
“If we are not reassured by the answers, I hope the members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be brave enough to refer the whole decision back for reconsideration.”
The county council has owned the site, which is currently used for agriculture, since 1985, when it was purchased as a way to protect the Green Belt from development.
The council says it has since accepted that it ‘has no legal option other than to sell the land’ and is now trying to negotiate the ‘best deal’ for local residents.
A spokesperson for the county council said: “County council officers have been working to finalise the legal agreements and complete the sale of land at the former Radlett aerodrome site to SEGRO since cabinet approved the sale of land in December 2022.
“The Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Wednesday 24 May will give councillors an opportunity to discuss the process which resulted in the decision to sell the land, and the reasons behind it. Since the planning application for a rail freight terminal on this site was submitted to St Albans District Council in 2006, the county council consistently objected to the scheme.
“However, following the secretary of state’s decision, after a public inquiry, to give planning permission for the rail freight terminal, we reluctantly accept that we have no legal option other than to sell the land. Our focus is therefore on trying to negotiate the best deal we can for local residents.”
© Eastern Echo (powered by ukpropertyforums.com).
Sign up to receive our weekly free journal, The Forum here.