No U-turn over plan for rail freight hub

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COUNCILLORS have refused to back an 850-signature petition calling for a u-turn over the decision to have Deeping St Nicholas as the preferred site for a rail freight hub.

An almost full public gallery was told the hub would be vital in helping to keep businesses in South Holland as the district’s councillors voted 25 to two against the plea.

Presenting the petition to the council, campaigner Jocelyn Kedzlie, of RAIL (Rally Against Industrialisation of our Landscape), said residents had expressed their feelings.

She said the site remained outside the local development framework, it lacked a business case and she questioned the site selection process.

However, Coun Howard Johnson, portfolio holder for economic development, fought back against each of her claims, also arguing there had been “an awful lot of interest” in creating a hub near Spalding.

He said he could not reveal who was interested in moving to the area due to confidentiality but said he would update his fellow councillors in a private meeting.

“We must respond to approaches by developers and this came from outside,” he said. “We must secure all existing businesses here. Without business, there are no jobs, and without jobs people will be living on the breadline.”

He added: “South Holland District Council makes no apologies for this. It’s been completely transparent.”

Coun Chris Brewis gave his backing to the council.

“We have got to create jobs for the future and I believe this is an opportunity that will put us on the map,” he said.

Crowland and Deeping St Nicholas councillor Bryan Alcock sought to find a compromise between the authority and those against the hub by re-examining the evidence which suggested Deeping St Nicholas was the best option.

He said the size of the development had been of “grave concern” to residents.

He said: “If the development goes ahead there needs to be at the least better information generally for Deeping St Nicholas and a better PR exercise than we are managing at present.

“I do not see why we should not reconsider the situation to make sure that we have it right.”