The High Court has dismissed a claim to quash the decision to refuse planning permission for a strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) near Slough.

Goodman Logistics applied in 2010 for planning permission for the interchange on land north of the A4 between Slough and Heathrow. The site is in the green belt and is designated as a strategic gap in the council’s core strategy. The council refused planning permission. This decision was backed at appeal by the secretary of state.

Goodman then applied under s 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act to quash the minister’s decision. It argued that the need for SRFI would sometimes require schemes to be built on green belt land given that they need to be sited alongside major rail routes and roads and near to conurbations.

The inspector and secretary of state agreed that the proposed scheme would meet the compelling need for an expanded network of SRFIs around London. They also acknowledged the difficulties in finding a suitable site. However, in deciding to attach no weight to the scheme being inevitably sited in the green belt, they relied on the protections in the National Planning Policy Framework, which made no exception for SRFIs in the green belt.

In Goodman Logistics Developments (UK) Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Slough Borough Council, the court agreed, saying that the need for new SRFIs was qualified by the statement that green belt locations for such developments would not be approved unless very special circumstances were shown to clearly outweigh the harm caused.