As the public inquiry into plans to build a giant rail freight depot on 155 acres of green belt land in Slade Green finishes its second week, residents had the chance to have their say. LINDA PIPER reports.

BEXLEY Council has been joined in its opposition to the ProLogis plan by neighbouring Dartford Council.

Senior Dartford planner Graham Parkinson said, in his opinion, the proposed new road from Bob Dunne Way, Dartford, to the site and a lifting bridge over the River Cray were "unjustified and inappropriate" development within the green belt.

He said the proposal, which was rejected by Dartford's planning committee, would damage the green belt and make it more vulnerable to further development.

The elevated roadway and the bridge, especially when it was raised, would be clearly visible and made even more visible by the heavy lorries which would be using it for access to the depot.

He said the street lights on the road would lead to light pollution and there were no special circumstances to justify building on green belt land.

Kent County Council is supporting ProLogis's plans.

Its senior transport engineer Timothy Martin said it was EU policy to increase rail freight and a proper network of terminals was needed.

He said the Howbury Park site fulfilled all the criteria.

And he suggested there would be sufficient spare capacity on the rail network to accommodate trains at the proposed rail freight depot.

Mr Martin said KCC felt, taking into account the need to reduce road freight in Kent and EU policies, there were enough grounds to allow the development in the green belt.


RETIRED ecologist Jeremy Cotton said rising sea levels made it likely that in future years Crayford Marshes would be allowed to flood.

This would save other areas such as the heavily populated Thamesmead and Canary Wharf, further up the Thames, from flooding.

He told the inquiry: "The survival of the biodiversity of Crayford and Dartford Marshes in the long term, depends on the possibility of the flora and fauna being able to retreat inland as, and when, the need arises."

Mr Cotton was also unimpressed with ProLogis's mitigation plans saying some of them "suggest a public relations exercise to play the green card."

IN HER evidence to the inquiry, Tula Maxted, a member of the Slade Green Community Forum and Bexley's Natural Environment Focus Group, described how the marshes had become an integral part of life in Slade Green, with walks and an annual Marsh Madness event.

She said people were suspicious of the large amount of warehousing ProLogis had included on the site and feared it would be used for a road, rather than a rail depot, and exceed the area's road capacity.

And she described ProLogis's proposed mitigation measures as "woefully inadequate".

She added it showed "little understanding of the ecosystem or environment around the site".


IAN Lindon, chairman of Bexley Local Agenda 21 and its traffic/transport sub-group, described ProLogis's hopes of spare daytime rail capacity on the north Kent line as "pure fantasy".

He said the only way it could run 12 trains each way per day, was to run them at night, disturbing nearby residents.

Mr Lindon added: "If the development is allowed, and it is subsequently found the rail service is not viable, we will be left with a monstrous scar on Crayford Marshes and be left perpetually with a site only likely to be suitable for heavy lorry use.

"The impact of the additional traffic on our roads would be horrendous."


JULIETTE Miller lives in Moat Lane, 20 feet from the edge of the proposed rail freight depot site. She told the inquiry she had moved to Slade Green because of the open space and good links to London.

Mrs Miller said: "We have horses in the fields. It is a beautiful area.

"Why destroy it with such a monstrosity?"

She said she was worried about the increase in bus and other traffic and the pollution it would bring as well as light pollution from the depot floodlights.

Neighbour Tim Waters, of Oak Road, said residents would pay for legal action to challenge a decision in favour of the depot.

His view of open countryside would be replaced by a 4m-tall grass bank created to obscure views of the depot.

Both said the value of their homes had plummeted because of the plans.


RESIDENT Brian Rodmell, of Alderney Road, Slade Green, suggested ProLogis looks at an alternative site to Howbury Park.

He suggested the White Hart Triangle, an industrial site in Thamesmead, would make a better site for the rail freight depot.

It already has planning permission for industrial, storage and distribution uses and is close to road and rail links.

He claimed the advantage to ProLogis of the Howbury Park site was it did not have planning permission and was therefore cheaper to buy.

Mr Rodmell claimed ProLogis was being offered the Slade Green site at an attractive price because owner Russell Stoneham Estates had failed several times to get planning permission for development and wanted to realise more of the value of its land holdings.


THE chairman of Slade Green Community Forum, Roy Hillman, admitted to the inquiry there were mixed feelings about the plans among residents in the area.

Some people believed it was right to try and shift freight from road to rail and others welcomed the prospect of up to 2,500 new jobs.

Others were concerned about the loss of green belt, the amount of traffic and pollution.

As a result, he said it was difficult to gauge public opinion.

But he added: "The forum's executive committee does not believe many, if any, of the things promised in the leaflet distributed by ProLogis will be delivered by them."

Mr Hillman said there were no guarantees the jobs would be filled locally.

The forum was also concerned about the number of lorries, the possibility of 24-hour working, traffic noise and light pollution, and the effects of the development on the area's flood defences.