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Campaigners in the dark on West Midlands Interchange decision

By Richard Guttridge | Staffordshire | Business | Published:

It remains unclear when a decision will be made on a huge rail depot planned for Staffordshire.

A decision on the West Midlands Interchange has been delayed

Confusion and anxiety is growing among villagers opposed to the West Midlands Interchange, which is planned for land the size of 430 football pitches at Gailey.

A decision was expected by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last week but residents and council officials remain in the dark about the fate of their neighbourhood.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said ministers were "due to update Parliament in due course on this" but did not give any indication of when this would be.

Villagers in South Staffordshire have been campaigning against the West Midlands Interchange for four years. One resident described the wait for answers as "excruciating".

Council officials have also been frustrated in their attempts to find out what is going on.

South Staffordshire Council leader Brian Edwards said he understood the frustration of residents.

He speculated the delay may be linked to the Budget which will be delivered by new Chancellor Rishi Sunak next week.

He said: "We want to know as much as anyone so we can get on and deal with it.

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"We're thinking about them (the residents) but unfortunately there isn't anything we can do to help them at this stage.

"We are frustrated as they are. We have to make decisions on time but it seems ministers can decide not to."

He added: "It's only supposition that it may be something to do with the Budget."

Councillor David Williams said on Facebook: "Just to update you all that there is still no news from the Planning Inspectorate on the decision relating to the West Midlands Interchange Development Consent Order.

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"We have emailed the Planning Inspectorate to try and get an idea of timescales given the legislative deadlines on making the decision but as yet have not had a response. We will of course keep you updated as and when we find out more."

Campaigners fear the rail interchange would have a huge impact on their lives, destroying green belt, increasing traffic and pollution and cause the value of their homes to plummet.

Some have began to speculate that a delay on the decision could be a positive sign for them.

David Spare said: "The delay is frustrating for everyone particularly for those who have fought so long and hard. However it may indicate hesitation and is better than a quick rubber stamp."

Others have made a link to last week's legal ruling on Heathrow Airport's third runway.

The Interchange would see 700 acres of land torn up close to the A5, A449 and M6 at Gailey, Four Ashes and Calf Heath.

Four Ashes Ltd, which is behind the plans, say the depot would create more than 8,500 jobs and bring £427 million to the local economy and an extra £912m nationally.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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