Legal advice sought over ‘blight’ of rail hub

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A LAWYER will be called in to check whether South Holland District Council’s actions over the proposed rail hub have caused a “planning blight” for the people of Deeping St Nicholas.

Last year the council’s cabinet earmarked land parallel with the A16 north of the village as its ideal location for a rail freight interchange.

Residents have said that their decision will make their homes harder to sell and members sparked a debate on the subject at last week’s full council meeting.

At the meeting, the last before May’s election, Coun Bryan Alcock said he did feel the cabinet’s decision could cause an issue with planning blight and possible compensation claims from people whose house prices drop as a result.

Coun Doug Best added: “One property, I am told, had to be sold with the price reduced by £40,000. No-one will be prepared to pay the normal market price for an area where there is going to be this development.

“What makes this more tragic is that the decision that was made by the cabinet need not have been taken.”

Coun Roger Gambba-Jones said he had studied the legislation on planning blights and that it was quite clear that, since no formal decision was made by the council’s planning body, it was “quite clear” that this was not the case.

He suggested that the separate proposal to increase freight traffic on the Spalding rail line by putting on four trains an hour would be of more concern to people locally than a possible freight interchange.

Coun Alcock said he was led to believe blight did apply after a discussion on a separate matter with officers from Lincolnshire County Council.

He said: “I’m no expert, all I am asking for is some clarity for this council and for the people who believe they are affected.”

Council leader Gary Porter said he wanted to make doubly sure of the authority’s position by taking legal advice.

Coun Porter said: “I think we should pay for a lawyer to tell us whether we are in or out.”

The hub would see firms transfer their produce in and out of the area by rail instead of road but campaigners argue that lorries would still be needed to take the produce to the hub and that rail is not flexible enough to replace haulage firms’ modern fleet of temperature controlled lorries.