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The Green Belt is not as sacrosanct as some might wish it to be and must sometimes give way to the modern world’s need for essential infrastructure. The point was made when the High Court gave the green light to construction of a strategic rail freight interchange on a 419-hectare site in rural Hertfordshire.
The proposals had first been put forward in 2006 and the controversy surrounding them resulted in two public inquiries before the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government granted planning consent in July 2014. That was on the basis that the undoubted harm to the Green Belt was outweighed by the acute public need for the facility to serve London and the South East.
In dismissing the relevant local authority’s challenge to the decision, the Court had no doubt that the Secretary of State had applied the correct legal test and had not allowed his discretion to be fettered by a previous planning decision concerning the site. Also rejected were arguments that the decision was fatally inconsistent with an earlier refusal of consent for a waste management facility on land nearby.