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Planning Inspectorate safeguards railway land

20 December 2004

Freight on Rail welcomes the recent decision by the Planning Inspectorate, part of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, to safeguard railway land for future rail-served development at Theale in Berkshire. West Berkshire Council was able to protect this land for possible potential future rail use because it had allocated the land as an extension of the rail served lands in its Local Plan. The Inspectorate rejected an appeal by Beftonforth Ltd to erect a 15,000 sq. m. telehouse on land in Theale.

This decision follows on from the precedent set by the case of Mansard County Homes Ltd v Surrey Heath Council in 2002. This case showed councils countrywide that, with the strengthening of Planning Policy Guidance PPG13, they could protect disused railway land for future potential railway use, even where there was no immediate evidence of future possible use. This helps to prevent railway sites and routes being lost to the nation forever and boost the campaign to save our railway infrastructure for the future to reduce road congestion and bring all the environmental benefits of rail freight transport.

It is vital that regional and local spatial planning makes adequate provision for rail freight by identifying and protecting existing and disused sites, lines and sidings and suitable interchange locations. In particular, planning permission for rail interchanges, without which rail freight cannot increase, will not be secured unless the right policies are enshrined in the spatial planning framework.

This case highlights the importance of the role of the SRA in providing expert evidence at Public Inquiries and Examinations in Public. These functions need to be replicated in the new Department for Transport Rail Directorate if planning permission for rail freight developments is to be granted. The Inspector for this case stated that, PPG13 advises that the SRA is best placed to advise on the sites and routes that are important to delivering wider transport objectives.

Campaign Co-ordinator Philippa Edmunds said “This decision means that all councils can continue to protect non-operational railway land for possible future rail use, without fear of litigation. We are delighted to see that Planning Policy Guidance PPG13 is being upheld again.”

Philippa Edmunds continued, “Specialist resources to represent the strategic rail interests at Public Inquiries and Examinations in Public are crucial if rail freight is to achieve its full potential to serve the economy and protect the environment and society. These functions, currently undertaken by the SRA, need to be replicated in the new structure.”

The relevant paragraph from the Government’s Revised Planning Policy Guidance of March 2001 is:

Planning Policy Guidance 13 Transport March 2001 Freight paragraph 45

The Government has set out is policy framework on freight in its ‘Sustainable Distribution Strategy’ March 1999). While road transport is likely to remain the main mode for many freight movements, land use planning can help to promote sustainable distribution, including where feasible, the movement of freight by rail and water. In preparing their development plans and in determining planning applications, local authorities should:

  • Identify and, where appropriate, protect sites and routes, both existing and potential, which could be critical in developing infrastructure for the movement of freight (such as major freight interchanges including facilities allowing road to rail transfer or for water transport) and ensure that any such disused transport sites and routes are not unnecessarily severed by new development or transport infrastructure. In relation to rail use, this should be done in liaison with the SRA which is best placed to advise on the sites and routes that are important to delivering wider transport objectives;
  • Where possible, locate developments generating substantial freight movements, such as distribution and warehousing, particularly of bulk goods, away from congested central areas and residential areas, and ensure adequate access to trunk roads;
  • Promote opportunities for freight generating development to be served by rail or waterways by influencing the location of development and by identifying and where appropriate protecting realistic opportunities for rail or waterway connections to existing manufacturing, distribution and warehousing sites adjacent or close to the rail network, waterways or coastal/estuarial ports; and
  • On disused transport sites consider uses related to sustainable transport first, before other uses:

Notes to editors:

Freight on Rail. a partnership between the RMT, ASLEF, TSSA, EWS, Freightliner, GB Railfreight, Network Rail, the Rail Freight Group and Transport 2000, works with local authorities to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail freight. It advocates policy changes that support the shift to rail and provides information and help on freight related issues. In particular, it aims to help local authorities through all stages of the process such as planning a rail-freight strategy and dealing with technical matters.

Van and lorry traffic grew by 5% between third quarter of 2003 and third quarter of 2004. Transport Statistics figures

One aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads – Network Rail 2004

Rail freight produces about one tenth of the emissions per tonne kilometre of HGVs - SRA 2004.

For further information including hard copy of Appeal decision APP/W0340/A/04/1137266

Contact:- Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail campaigner
Tel: 0208 241 9982: email; web site  


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