Houses could be built on the site of a proposed rail freight depot.

Hertfordshire County Council, which owns the Park Street green belt land, near St Albans, has suggested the site could be used for around 2,000 homes.

Developer HelioSlough was given permission by the Secretary of State in July 2014 to build the controversial £300 million Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield site in 2014.

As of yet, the developer has yet to buy the site from the council.

However, following St Albans District Council’s call for possible housing sites as part of its Local Plan, the county council has proposed the airfield site as one of eight sites that could be used.

Herts County council leader Cllr David Williams said: “We’ve always said that we’d prefer the Radlett airfield site to remain as green belt and that we’d rather not sell it, but we recognise that we need to build 90,000 new homes in the county over the next 15 years and some 13,700 of those will need to be in the St Albans district.

“That’s why it makes sense for us to offer up this land, which we own, as a possible site for a garden village with 2,000 new homes and the infrastructure to support them.

“The county council remains firmly opposed to the proposed rail freight interchange, but if the developer offers to buy this land we may have no legal option except to sell it.

“A housing-led scheme would be less damaging to the Hertfordshire environment, be more valuable in meeting Hertfordshire’s need for additional housing and have a higher land value than the permitted SRFI scheme.”

Protesters fear an increase in lorry traffic on the A414, A5183, and other local roads, the industrialisation of attractive countryside, noise, light pollution, and the coalescence of London Colney and Park Street if the depot is built, which was first mooted in 2007.

Watford Observer:

Picture: Outside the High Court in 2015, including Anne Main, MP for St Albans (fifth from left) and Oliver Dowden MP for Hertsmere (third from left)

Cathy Bolshaw, from campaign group Stop the Rail Freight Exchange, believes this alternative proposal for homes will only create different problems.

She said: “We realise there is a pressing issue for houses. But this will still create lots of traffic and we don’t know all the details.

“And the timing is strange because the developer’s application is set to be finalised next month and then its up to them when they decide when to bid for the land.”

A resident who lives nearby has welcomed the county council's move.

Andy Love said: "I would prefer a sympathetic housing development to a SRFI development. Then there would be a need for improvement to the current infrastructure around Park Street to support the extra housing.

"Perhaps London Colney would then justify having its own station.

"Residents certainly don't want an SRFI development on top of all the extra housing that needs to be built in St Albans so why not use some of the Park Street Green Belt for the much needed and compulsory extra housing?"

Tracy Harvey, head of planning for St Albans City and District Council, said: “As part of the local plan consultation, we asked landowners and developers to put forward sites in the district that might be suitable for development in the future.

“We have received a number of suggestions including sites for new homes. We will consider them carefully along with other feedback before a draft local plan is put before the full council this summer. It is too early to say what sites will be recommended to councillors.”

Hertfordshire County Council are also proposing seven further council owned sites. They include:

1. Rural Estate land south of Napsbury
2. Rural Estate land north of Napsbury
3. Land East of Kay Walk, St Albans
4. Land at Stephens Way and Flamsteadbury Lane Redbourn
5. Rural Estate land at Waterdell, adj to Mount Pleasant JMI
6. Rural estate land at Highfield Farm, Tyttenhanger
7. Carpenter’s Nursery, Sandridge

HelioSlough has been approached for comment.