The application was granted approval yesterday for the development of a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) together with landscaping, access and other supporting infrastructure works consisting of an intermodal freight terminal including container storage and HGV parking, rail sidings to serve individual warehouses, and with the capability to also provide a ‘rapid rail freight’ facility as part of the intermodal freight terminal.
In addition there would be approximately 5 million sq ft warehousing and ancillary buildings, with additional floorspace provided in the form of mezzanines as well as new road infrastructure and works to the existing road network, including the provision of a new access and associated works to the A508, a new bypass to the village of Roade, improvements to Junction 15 and to Junction 15A of the M1 motorway, the A45, and other highway improvements at junctions on the local highway network;
The scheme was one of five strategic rail freight interchanges being proposed in the Midlands with a combined associated warehouse development of some 39 million sq ft in addition to the ones already there which include East Midlands Gateway and DIRFT (adding a further 15 million sq ft of associated warehouse space).
Goodman has its East Midlands Intermodal Park in South Derbyshire, which would bring 6 million sq ft of associated warehousing across a 630-acre site.
Then there is an adjacent 600-acre site to Roxhill’s Northampton gateway SRFI being brought forward by Gazeley teaming up with Ashfield Land to promote Rail Central in Northamptonshire, two miles from Junction 15A of the M1 motorway. The scheme is looking to provide 7.4 million sq ft of associated warehousing space.
Far in the north west of the region in South Staffordshire, Four Ashes is championing the 733 acre West Midlands Interchange, with up to 8 million sq ft of associated warehousing.
Finally the most recent to be put forward is dbSymmetry’s Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange in Leicestershire which links in to the Nuneaton to Felixstowe rail freight route. The 560-acre site could accommodate up to 9 million sq ft of associated warehouse space (some of it mezzanine). It is located close to Junction 2 of the M69 motorway connecting the M6 near Coventry and the M1 motorway near Leicester.
Like most nationally important infrastructure developments, this one has proved controversial having gone through the planning inspectorate rather than the more usual planning route. Three examining inspectors made up a panel to examine the application, which was conducted on the basis of written and oral submissions submitted to the Panel and by a series of meetings held in Northampton. The Panel also undertook one accompanied and one unaccompanied site inspection.
In response to the application the Secretary of State noted there is a ‘compelling need for an expanded network of SRFIs’. And believes that it is ‘for the market to determine the feasibility of particular proposals and notes there will be limited suitable locations for SRFIs’.
With regard to the number and proximity of SRFIs in the Midlands the Secretary of State notes: ‘that operational collaboration and linkage between closely related SRFIs does takes place (including between SRFIs geographically closer than DIRFT and the Proposed Development), and notes the Panel’s consideration that a similar relationship between DIRFT and the Proposed Development might also occur. The Secretary of State therefore agrees with the Panel that the proximity of DIRFT does not undermine the Applicant’s justification of need’.
In relation to other proposals elsewhere in the region the Secretary of State’s response was that it was not possible to judge an application on any ‘putative proposals’ of a similar nature.
By Liza Helps
Developer Roxhill has secured approval from the Secretary of State for its 5 million sq ft strategic rail freight terminal in Northamptonshire.