Not in my aerodrome

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Hundreds of residents rejoiced after controversial plans to build a rail freight terminal on the former Radlett Aerodrome just outside St Albans were rejected, according to the report in the “St Albans Observer” last month.

It’s a sad reflection on the triumph of nimby-ism in the UK that economically and environmentally important developments are being cast aside in this way.

In this issue of Logistics Manager we look at the opportunities for developing rail freight services and moving more goods by rail. It’s something we all agree is worth doing where possible.

If you ask people in the street, they will tell you that moving goods by rail means that lorry movements can be reduced and it’s a disgrace that we are not doing more to take traffic off the road.

The trouble is that those same people are unable to connect the ability to move more goods by rail with the provision of the infrastructure needed to do so. As a result, we end up in the ludicrous position that every test of public opinion calls for expansion of the rail system but a scheme is put forward all too often it is blocked by the locals.

But it is not just rail development that is a problem – it is just part the broader issue of finding land that is suitable for logistics operations. All too often logistics is right at the bottom of the list of priorities set by local authority planners.

“Where does logistics feature in the planning system?” asks John Bowles of property agents Atis Real. “You only have to look around at freight exchange proposals to see how highly logistics is regarded. Logistics is not being pushed properly and is slow to react and as a result the bigger picture is being missed and that is pretty fundamental especially if you are looking at the environmental agenda.”

Taken in isolation, the St Albans decision is damaging but unlikely to be catastrophic. The citizens of St Albans are no doubt sleeping soundly secure in the knowledge that they have fought off the noisome iron horse.

But the smell of defeat should be too much for the industry. It is time that local authorities were made to understand the importance of logistics to their own prosperity.

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor

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