Legal expert: ‘No blight’ from rail freight hub

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A LEGAL expert has said that South Holland District Council has not caused a “planning blight” for the people of Deeping St Nicholas by earmarking land there for a rail freight interchange.

The council has chosen land parallel with the A16 for a hub so food produce can be brought in and out of the district by trains, sparking complaints from residents that it has affected house prices.

The matter was debated by councillors in April after members raised fears that the authority could have made itself open to compensation claims from people whose properties suffer a drop in price.

At that meeting leader Gary Porter opted to call in a lawyer to check the council had acted correctly in outlining a preferred site before a planning application is made.

Following that advice the council is now confident it has not created a blight.

Coun Howard Johnson, district council portfolio holder for strategic planning, said: “The provisions about blight contained within the Town and County Planning Act 1990 are complicated but having sought legal advice it is not considered that there is any land which has been blighted as a result of the cabinet decision.

“Throughout this process both councillors and officers have worked hard to ensure that decisions reached by the council have not only been legal but also been the right decisions for residents in South Holland.”

Residents have formed RAIL (Rally Against the Industrialisation of the Landscape) to protest against the hub. The group argues that the development will spoil a large chunk of flat Fenland countryside and that it is not needed, with logistics firms using hi-tech fleets of lorries that are a more flexible mode of transport.

RAIL’s Jocelyn Kedzlie was unfazed by news of the council’s legal advice and said the fact that no planning application has been lodged by a developer proves the project is not viable.

She said: “This is just a small part of the battle but I don’t think it’s a major blow.

“If that’s the legal opinion then that’s fine but the reality on the ground is that properties are stalling and prices are falling.

“All this time on and still there is nothing in the pipeline.

“There is still no-one coming forward and I still hear the same negative response from everyone in logistics I speak to.”