Government pressure on local authorities to build on the Green Belt may result in success for developers of the controversial rail freight terminal near Radlett.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England in Hertfordshire (CPRE) fears Government proposals, including plans to build more than 80,000 new houses, new roads, airport expansion, golf courses and industrial parks nationwide will make the rail freight terminal an inevitability.
After being rejected by both the planning authority and the Secretary of State in July 2010 on Green Belt grounds, the fresh application for the rail freight depot by developer Helioslough is back in the hands of Secretary of State Eric Pickles, who will make the final decision.
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."
New national planning policies require local authorities to allocate more than five years’ worth of building land for new housing and CPRE is concerned government planning inspectors will put pressure on local authorities to allow building in the Green Belt to meet this requirement.
Government plans to reduce further national planning guidance could lead to Ministers no longer scrutinising major proposals for development in the Green Belt.
Paul Miner, senior planning officer for CPRE, said: "The Green Belt is the most popular planning policy in England and the envy of the world.
"It helps regenerate our cities and stops them sprawling into rural areas. As a result, no one is ever too far from true, green English countryside.
"In times of economic slowdown, politicians can sometimes be tempted by the false promise of an easy construction boom.
"But destroying the countryside is not the path to lasting economic prosperity. Sustainable economic improvement can only come from the sort of urban regeneration that has already done much to rejuvenate many of our largest cities."
"Ministers have consistently maintained that they value the Green Belt and want to see it protected.
"Now is the time to put these words into action."
It is thought the final decision on whether to build the rail freight terminal will be announced in the coming weeks.