Controversial West Midlands Interchange work to begin 'as soon as possible'
Bosses behind a controversial rail depot say they are aiming to start construction as soon as possible after deadline for legal challenges to the scheme passed.
Four Ashes Ltd has been given the green light to proceed with plans for the West Midlands Interchange (WMI) on land the size of 430 football pitches at Gailey.
The rail freight interchange, which will create more than 8,500 jobs but was fiercely opposed by locals, was approved by the Government in May.
There was then a four-week period for parties to lodge legal challenges through a judicial review.
South Staffordshire Council, the most likely candidate to do so, concluded there was no basis for a challenge, meaning the final obstacle has now been cleared.
Four Ashes Ltd said it was "currently putting plans in place to approach funders and development teams in order to market the site and start construction as soon as possible".
Timeline of coverage:
- April 2016: 8,500 jobs promised as plans unveiled
- April 2016: A boost for the region or a grave concern?
- June 2016: Angry residents vow to fight £8.5m freight depot
- July 2016: MPs unite to fight 'disastrous' rail hub
- August 2016: Expert gives damning view on £8 million rail hub
- July 2017: Second consultation launched on West Midlands Interchange
- July 2017: Two new parks and road promised as part of super rail hub
- August 2018: Plans for major freight rail hub near Wolverhampton facing inspection
- September 2018: Gavin Williamson steps up fight against Interchange
- June 2019: Planning experts get closer look at controversial rail freight hub
- December 2019: Planning experts make recommendation to Government
- February 2020: Residents in limbo as decision date looms
- March 2020: Campaigners in the dark on Interchange decision
- May 4, 2020: Huge rail hub approved despite residents' four-year fight
- May 6, 2020: 'We won't give up': Campaigners vow to fight on despite West Midlands Interchange go-ahead
- June 19, 2020: Campaigners' hopes ended as council decides against West Midlands Interchange challenge
It comes as new images were released showing how the huge development would transform the South Staffordshire countryside.
Gavin Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire and Education Secretary, was one of the most high-profile opponents of the Interchange and labelled the decision of his Cabinet colleague Grant Shapps to approve "idiotic".
The site was chosen due to its proximity to the M6 and West Coast Mainline.
Four Ashes Ltd promoted the benefits of the scheme in a statement following the passing of the judicial review period.
It said: "The Four Ashes site will boost economic growth through its location in the M54 Wolverhampton – Staffordshire High Growth Zone. It supports both the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy and the ambitions of the Midlands Engine, which together aim to help deliver a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people in the West Midlands and throughout the UK.
"As well as helping to attract more global business and investment, the scheme will create 8,550 direct jobs. It is expected to generate £427m of local economic activity each year and, through the supply chain, create £912m per annum of economic activity nationally.
"A new SRFI (strategic rail freight interchange) is something that has been identified as essential for the future prosperity of South Staffordshire, the Black Country and West Midlands region since 2004, according to the West Midlands Regional Logistics Study.
"The West Midlands’ strong manufacturing and logistics industrial base is growing, and there is a shortage of suitable quality development land for large scale rail-served logistics warehousing. WMI will deliver fast, reliable transport links to help the region’s businesses compete in national and international markets.
"The proposed scheme has been designed to increase the efficiency of freight distribution, taking freight traffic off motorways and trunk roads and onto the rail network. This will also reduce CO2 emissions emitted by freight transport; rail freight produces up to 70 per cent less CO2 and up to 15 times lower noxious emissions than road freight tonne for tonne."