Planning hearing set for Hinckley National Rail Freight In…


Tritax has already put several logistics parks in place, including this facility at Doncaster, currently under further developmentImage Tritax Symmetry corporate

The National Planning Inspectorate will sit in Leicestershire next month to hear arguments over the proposed and somewhat controversial Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange. The project has been called in because of its perceived importance to the future national infrastructure. If the interchange project overcomes the hurdles of planning review and local opposition, it will sit on square in the UK’s so-called Golden Triangle for logistics.

Local residents and stakeholders are gearing up for a crucial planning hearing that will go a long way to determining the fate of the proposed Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange (HNRFI) in Leicestershire. With the development’s potential to reshape the regional and national infrastructure, both proponents and opponents are poised to have their voices heard in this pivotal part of the process. The rail element of the project would potentially provide a direct link from Felixstowe, Britain’s busiest intermodal port, and inland markets in the English Midlands and beyond.

Comprehensive rail freight terminal

Developer Tritax Symmetry has been at the forefront of this project, envisioning a 662-acre (268-hectare) rail hub situated between the town of Hinckley and the city of Leicester. The 750 million pound (877 million euro) scheme not only includes a comprehensive rail freight terminal but also extensive road upgrades, ecological mitigation efforts, landscaping, and amenity land, as well as the small matter of a substantial warehousing facility.

Map showing location of Hinckley
Hinckley is in a sweet spot for logistics distribution, often known as the Golden Triangle.

The proposed project has sparked significant controversy, drawing both support and opposition from the local community and officials. While Tritax Symmetry has engaged extensively with residents and conducted consultations, some local councilors remain vehemently opposed to the development due to concerns about its impact on the countryside, local infrastructure, and quality of life for residents.

Sporting chance to be heard

The Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange has been designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, underscoring its potential impact on the broader national transportation network. As such, the final decision lies in the hands of the UK government, specifically the Secretary of State for Transport. The Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency sponsored by the UK government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, will conduct the examination process, beginning on 12 September. The examination is expected to span around six months and will scrutinise various aspects of the project, including its environmental impact, economic benefits, and compatibility with regional planning policies.

CGI impression of logistics park warehouses and rail terminal at Hinckley in East Midlands
CGI impression of logistics park warehouses and rail terminal at Hinckley in East Midlands

Given the struggle around the project, it’s appropriate that the latest scrum around HNRFI, the preliminary meeting, will be held at conference facilities within the Leicester Tigers Rugby Club. This meeting marks the beginning of the formal consideration of the Development Consent Order and Compulsory Acquisition aspects of the project – two critical parts of the planning approval process …or its rejection. Hearings will continue for three days, allowing stakeholders to delve into the details of the proposal. Given the significant interest, meetings will also be live-streamed.

At present, Hinckley National Rail Freight Interchange is a series of computer-generated images. It remains to be seen how the balance between regional development and environmental and community concerns will be struck. Whether local or national interests prevail or can be accommodated will decide if Hinckley’s CGIs are generated in real life.

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