Angry campaigners mount latest Wednesbury sleeper factory protest
“If this goes ahead, we are condemning our children to an adulthood of illness and an early death.”
These were the fierce claims of residents staging yet another protest against plans to build a sleeper factory just yards from their homes.
Network Rail wants to build the factory, which would produce 600,000 concrete sleepers a year, on the site at Bescot Sidings in the Friar Park area of Wednesbury.
But more than 4,000 residents have signed a petition against the scheme, and have told the rail company they ‘will not back down’.
They previously staged a protest outside Sandwell Council’s offices back in March.
Carol Wise, aged 73, lives in Westmore Way and her home backs right onto the proposed site.
She said her biggest concerns are the dangerous levels of pollution she believes the factory will bring.
“There are seven schools within one mile of Bescot. These children have developing lungs and they are at their most vulnerable,” she said.
“If this goes ahead, we are condemning our children to an adulthood of illness and an early death.
"When we first moved here we couldn’t see the site or the motorway because of all these trees, they kept away the noise and pollution.
"But they’ve cut these down, it’s horrendous.”
Councillor Simon Hackett of Sandwell Council has been supporting residents since they heard news of the plans in December last year.
He believes their health will be affected, house prices will crash down, and that the noise will cause disruption.
He said: “The disappointing thing for me is that Network Rail have had two consultations and hundreds of people have turned up to say ‘find a non-residential area’.
“A petition went to the council. But they are not listening.
“This is the biggest grassroots campaign I have ever seen as a councillor. All these people coming together on a Monday morning.
"It shows people are still angry. Their feelings haven’t changed and they are up in arms.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “Ahead of our planning application, we have held two public information events to provide residents with the facts of our proposals, as well as details about how they can comment through the formal planning process.
“A ground survey is essential to inform the planning application. The sleepers would be made in a sealed, filtered environment, creating no external dust, and we will put in place measures to reduce any potential visual or noise impacts.
“We continue to listen to feedback from residents and have already moved the proposed access road away from the residential area.”