West Midlands Interchange: Expert gives damning view on £8 million rail hub
'I have never seen a proposal that was so potentially damaging to the waterways'.
This is the damning view of the Inland Waterways Association's planning boss as the association reveals its objections to the proposed West Midlands Interchange at Four Ashes.
Plans have been submitted for the £8.5 million, 800,000 square metre hub, just off junction 12 of the M6, at Gailey.
But they were met with numerous objections during the consultation stage, which has now finished. Among the objectors were the IWA, who raised concerns over the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, green belt land and traffic.
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Phil Sharpe, the IWA's planning officer, said: "The proposed WMI is inappropriate green belt development not justified by very special circumstances.
"The rail connections are not operationally credible and would serve only a small part of the site traffic. It would lead to a massive increase in road traffic and congestion. There would be significant damage to the heritage, environment and visitor economy of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal and its conservation area.
"The scale of the warehousing development now proposed is a whole order of magnitude greater, and in my 23 years of commenting on planning matters affecting the canal system I have never seen a proposal that was so potentially damaging to the waterways."
The IWA joins two Staffordshire MPs – South Staffordshire's Gavin Williamson and Stafford's Jeremy Lefroy – in opposing the plans.
The planned interchange would sit between junction 12 of the M6 and the main A449 Stafford Road on the southern side of the A5.
A roundabout would also be built between the motorway junction and the Gailey island on the A5 under the plans, with another roundabout between the island and Four Ashes crossroads.
Peter Frost, managing director of Four Ashes Ltd, said: "Protecting the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is of the utmost importance to us.
"We are already working with the Canal and Rivers Trust and Natural England, along with other statutory consultees, to work out how best to preserve and enhance the canal and its setting. We are seeking to meet with the IWA and I look forward to working with them in the future.
"We will be consulting on more detailed proposals early next year, which will include our plans for areas alongside the canal."