Radlett Is A Relatively Large
Radlett is a relatively large village with a population of around 8,108 (ONS, 2011). Radlett is located north west of London in Hertfordshire, under the Hertsmere council’s authority. Due to the size of the population and the land that is incorporated in the village of Radlett, there have been several disputes between the local council and the citizens. There has been an increase in the number of developments that have been occurring within Radlett, whether it be for housing or business, with 20 applications for planning permission placed in the last 3 weeks (Hertsmere CC, 2016). However, there are two heavily contested applications, which are the building of a rail-freight terminal and the proposed building of a hotel in Radlett. The building of both of these projects has drawn fierce debate within the local community with some viewing these projects as economically beneficial, whilst others see them as destroying of the environment and as opportunities wasted with possible alternatives. This shows the evolution of Radlett as a village, trying to expand economically by allowing projects like these to go ahead, whilst ignoring other opportunities which may benefit locals socially, rather than purely economically.
The Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) was first proposed by Helioslough (Segro) in 2006 to Hertfordshire county council (BBC News, 28 March 2015), who were transferred the land by Lafarge Aggregates in October 2006 (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). The site proposed is the former Radlett Aerodrome, part of the green belt, which is included within the 300 acres of land that the Hertfordshire county council own. The planning was initially refused due to the lack of investigation into other potential sites in nearby areas, as it was felt that the project would be out of character with the rest of the area (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). However, after redrafting of the application, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles decided that the project showed promise and supported it in 2012, and it was finally approved in July 2014, with the main reason being that the benefits of the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange would be greater than the potential harm to the landscape in which it was proposed to be built (Out-Law.com, 15 July 2014). The final planning permission applications were submitted on 13 October 2016, and are expected to be accepted (Hertsmere CC, 2016). This has led to the debate on whether the economic change from this project, outweighs its impact on the town’s natural environment and also whether alternative projects for the area would have reduced social inequality, unlike this one.
There has been a large push by the government to increase the numbers of SRFI’s in the UK over recent years. This is mainly due to the fact that the UK’s share of global exports has decreased by 1.4% from 2000-2009 to only 2.8%, whereas a fellow European country Germany, has actually increased its share of global exports in this same time period by 0.5% to 9.0% (Planning Inspectorate, 2014). The main function of an SRFI is to decrease the costs of moving freight by rail, and by creating one in the former Radlett aerodrome site, it may encourage greater freight transportation from London due to the close proximity of Radlett to London, as well as the current infrastructure. This should benefit, not just the local area with jobs, but the whole of the UK with an increase in exports which may boost the UK economy. A further boost to the local area would be a £150,000 investment into improving Park Street Station to improve transport for potential workers (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). This shows that there would be clear benefits brought by the introduction of the SRFI on the local area and the UK.
However, there are also negatives to the construction of the SRFI. These are both environmental and social, with the SRFI being built on the green belt and causing increased congestion in surrounding areas. An environmental concern is that the ecological importance of the site of construction of the SRFI may have been undervalued by the Planning Inspectorate. One such undervaluation could have been that of the breeding site for waders (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). There are a few birds such as the curlew and green sandpiper which have local populations within the nearby areas of the proposed SRFI which may be placed in danger if their breeding grounds are destroyed (Herts Bird Club, 2016). This may not be a huge problem though, as there are surrounding areas which are also suitable sites for wader breeding, although the impact on the birds cannot be measured. The social issues of congestion would be caused by an increase in the number of vehicles on roads in the surrounding areas. The SRFI is not expected to distribute the HGV movements equally between the road and rail, with more HGV movements expected by road than by rail (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). This would mean that there would be a significant increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, not including the movement of workers to and from the SRFI. With 3,000 workers expected to travel to and from the SRFI everyday, Helioslough planned to have only 65% of workers travelling via car, reducing it later on to 50% (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). Although this may appear to limit the congestion, it was a concern of the Planning Inspectorate that due to the widespread nature of the employees, with only 14% (477) living locally, that there would not be enough direct transport to the SRFI for only 50% to travel via car, hence the congestion may not actually limit the congestion (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009). The traffic of the SRFI is expected to increase the flows on the road by 12% (from 2004 estimates), and this is significant because an increase of 5% is considered a material increase, showing this would be a large change (Hertfordshire CC, 23 June 2009).
One of the alternative projects for the land was a solar park (Burton M. 4 February 2016). This could be viewed as an improvement on the current application of a SRFI as it would not only provide jobs for locals, of a similar size to the SRFI, but would also benefit the UK’s target of having 15% of all energy created by renewable sources by 2020 (Bradshaw M.J. 2010). The 119 acre area would be able to facilitate around four 5 megawatts of installation, which would mean that it should be able to power roughly 6,060 homes for a year (based off the average consumption of 3,300 kilowatts for an individual household) (Solar-Trade, n.d.). However, this plan would require planning permission despite the potential integration between the panels and wildlife, such as grazing sheep. Other potential projects included the building of a super-hospital and a major housing development. The major housing development would help to provide affordable housing in an area which has an average house price of £784,047 (of houses sold in the last 12 months, comprised of flats, semi-detached, detached and terraced houses) (Rightmove, 4 October 2016). This is dramatically different to the average house price in England and Wales of £207,500, and the Radlett house prices are over 34 times larger than the average salary of £22,578 (Butterworth M. 7 October 2016). This housing development would provide more affordable housing, which would look to decrease the social inequality in the area and provide some economic benefits, not to the same extent as the SRFI, but to keep in line with the economic change occurring within Radlett.
The other main dispute between the citizens of Radlett and the council is the building of a new 80-bedroom hotel in the Newberries car park. This is part of the council’s plans to better utilise areas economically, with the hotel expecting to bring in an additional £1 million per annum, into Radlett (Hertsmere CC, 9 March 2016). This comes after years of the council considering how to increase the economic use of the car park without success. The council will not be selling the land to private investors however, instead choosing to develop the area themselves. However, some locals are sceptical about the actual benefits being boasted by the council and actually feel like it will have an overall negative impact on Radlett. The council’s figures are based on the fact that people will want to stay in the hotel due to the good transport links to London, and the nearby M25, M1 and A1 (Hertsmere CC, 9 March 2016). The local council have decided to go ahead with the project, believing that the positives outweigh the negatives, which can be expected as it fits in line with the economic change of the area.
The economic change can clearly be seen as the main argument for the development of the car park into a hotel, is the economic benefits that it will bring in both the short and long term. In the short term the construction of the hotel is expected to increase the number of part time jobs in the local area, reducing the unemployment in Hertsmere with currently around 2.1% of the population unemployed (Anon, 2012). In the long term, the hotel will offer around 85 full and part time jobs for people living in Radlett, this includes the retail space on the first floor of the development (Hertsmere CC, 2016). As the current design does not incorporate any catering facilities people in the hotel will be forced to get food along the high-street, which would be a boost to local businesses. The main cause for concern is that should people not wish to stay in the hotel, that it would collapse and be a waste of money. However, the council has created a fall back plan, where, should the hotel fail, it should be sold as budget homes and should recoup all of the money spent on the development (Brown S. 6 March 2016)
Although the economic change of the area, promoted by the development of the hotel, may seem solely beneficial, it can be seen that there are potential drawbacks and even some negatives associated with its construction. Newberries car park is the main area for people to park their cars with 216 parking spaces, and with only a handful of other places to park, the removal of any of these spaces may cause a problem for the high-street, especially as the Radlett Centre and doctor’s surgery have no parking facilities of their own. However, according to the council, only 60% of the spaces in Newberries are used on average, and the development will look to maintain, if not increase, the number of spaces if the budget can cover it (Bowbrick S. 2016). This may mean that, should the development go to plan the problems of parking in Radlett should stay the same as before, therefore, causing no social problems. This, however, is not the only issue with the development, with there being a large concern about the fall back plan in place. The area for the hotel is not the most desirable, which is further explained by the potential selling of budget homes. However, it is not only the fact that it is located only tens of metres from the train line or that is placed behind the shops of Radlett high-street, but the fact that the land is prone, and known, to flood, as recently as 2011. This may mean that there will be very little interest in living there, hence not recouping the money spent on the development. This shows that the economic change of Radlett may not be planned correctly to avoid potential negative impacts on the area.
In conclusion, it can be seen that Radlett is going through a period of economic change, with ambitious economic projects being accepted. However, these have lead to disputes about potential social inequality and increased awareness of the relations with the natural environment. This is shown by each project having strong opposition with alternative projects which, in some eyes would have fewer negative implications. This shows that when a town, such as Radlett, tries to branch out and focus on improving the economic side of the area there will be other processes which will be affected by such changes.