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£18m rail link in Staffordshire given go-ahead

An £18 million rail terminal is to be built in Norton Canes.


Bosses at freight delivery company Pentalver say building the terminal is the right decision for Cannock.

The ambitious scheme has been given the go-ahead by Cannock Chase Council, despite concerns about noise.

The company, which employs more than 300 people, plans to run up to six trains a day directly to and from south coast ports, cutting down on 'empty' trips to rail depots to pick up containers.

Pentalver managing director Chris Lawrenson said container traffic nationally was growing at four per cent year on year.

He said if the rail plan had not been approved, the firm would have been forced to move the business elsewhere.

He said: "We've got to keep pace. There is a mega trend for switching from road to rail. This decision is right for Cannock and for the retail industry.

"Although there will not be a fall in the number of movements in and out of the site, this will cut down on 16 million road miles, particularly along the A5 and the M6."

But the multi-million pound scheme, which includes new rail sidings, offices, warehouses and roads, has upset residents living in nearby Rumer Hill Road and developer St Modwen who wants to build 83 homes on an adjoining site.

They say the Pentalver expansion will cause too much noise and that tall gantry cranes would create an ugly outlook for householders. The builder said it had been working with the council for up to three years to secure a much-needed residential estate at the location.

Councillor John Kraujalis, who represents the area, said he felt strongly that the noise would be too much for people already living just 120 yards away from the site boundary.

Rejecting the complaints, Councillor Frank Allen said Cannock had a history of homes and factories situated side by side.

"When I was younger there were 38 pits in Cannock and you could see the pitheads from far away and at 11am every day a loud buzzer used to be sounded.

"We're desperate for alternative jobs in the area since the pits closed, and homes and industry have always been cheek by jowl in the area."

A report to the council reveals that the site had a rail link in the past and that Pentalver chose the location because of this. The main elements of the scheme will be railway sidings, acoustic fencing and two rail-mounted gantry cranes. The sidings will be on a lower level that the adjacent land, causing limited visual impact.

The fencing is due to be around 13ft high and would not stand out from the existing landscape of stacked containers, said the report, although the cranes, at more than 70ft, would be clearly visible.

However, cabinet members agreed with Councillor Allen about their low impact in a traditionally industrial landscape.

The re-opening of the rail link will result in fewer long-haul journeys as drivers currently have to drive to Felixstowe, Southampton and Tilbury to pick up containers and bring them back to Cannock.

However, the new terminal will lead to more shorter trips as containers arrive by train for distribution across the West Midlands.

The company plans to run a maximum of six trains per 24 hours, including two that will arrive during the night.

The Cabinet heard that there have been just two complaints about noise from Pentalver in the last year. During a site visit they were told the rolling stock will be on the furthest side of the base from Rumer Hill Road.

Councillor Michael Grocutt felt St Modwen's views should not be taken into consideration as the firm had not yet been granted planning permission to build homes at the site.

"It's an industrial area and if we want industry here we need to make compromises," he said. Mr Lawrenson argued that homes built so close to Pentalver's depot off the A460 Eastern Way, would 'seriously threaten' the rail terminal.

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