Inspector knocks back North Yorkshire rail freight interchange appeal

Plans for a strategic rail freight interchange in the North Yorkshire countryside have been dismissed at appeal after an inspector concluded the proposed development was in conflict with both local and national planning policy.

The site of the proposed development (Image: Harworth Group)
The site of the proposed development (Image: Harworth Group)

Developer Harworth Group sought planning permission for a 186,000 square metre rail-linked industrial development outside Sherburn. The application was refused by Selby District Council in March last year.

Inspector Kevin Ward has now dismissed an appeal over the decision, finding that the proposed development was not acceptable in principle, would be poorly served by public transport, would cause harm to the character and appearance of the local area, and did not accord with the Selby local plan or the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The inspector noted that the 110 hectare appeal site is located in the countryside and is not allocated for development.

While part of the site has previously been developed, he advised that around 43 hectares is greenfield land.

He found the scale of development proposed, in terms of the provision of employment space, was “substantially in excess” of that envisaged by the local plan. 

The inspector advised that the appeal site is “poorly served by public transport” and was in conflict with national policy due to the likely reliance on private cars among those working at the site.

Considering the proposed scheme’s impact on the character and appearance of the local area, the inspector found it “would result in some harm”, although this would be moderated by its limited visibility.

Nevertheless, “it remains a factor which counts against the proposed development,” he said.

Furthermore, the inspector found that the appeal site includes 15.6 hectares of the “best and most versatile” agricultural land and would therefore be in conflict with the Selby local plan.

The inspector noted that the development would result in a "substantial rail freight interchange" and that the need for such facilities has been "recognised at a national level".

However, he added that "there is no substantive evidence which clearly demonstrates a specific need for such a facility in this particular location", while "the need for employment land connected to a rail freight interchange has not been quantified".

There were no further material considerations that justified granting planning permission, the inspector said.

Planning barrister Stephanie Hall QC of Kings Chambers acted for Selby District Council in the inquiry.

According to a statement from Kings Chambers on the case: "The decision shows that projects of a strategic nature such as this may face a difficult time when brought forward as part of a one-off application.

"The inspector specifically mentioned that policies in the NPPF in support of major infrastructure such as paragraph 104 refer to planning policies rather than decisions and promotion through a local plan may be a preferred route."

Earlier this month, transport secretary Grant Shapps approved plans for a strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) in the Staffordshire green belt, after ruling that local concerns that the project could be used as a “Trojan Horse” to secure consent for warehousing served by roads could be addressed through planning conditions.

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