Bescot sleeper factory should not be built, say council planners

An application to build a concrete railway sleeper factory next to the M6 should be refused, Sandwell council planning officers have said.

An artist's impression of the proposed sleeper factory
An artist's impression of the proposed sleeper factory

The advice to reject planning permission could mean the end for a plan to produce 600,000 units a year on the Bescot sidings freight yard on the Wednesbury and Walsall border, which residents claim is too close to nearby homes.

In recommending refusal, officers have said the plans do not comply with local development strategies and the two-year construction phase and "would result in an unacceptable level of heavy goods vehicle movements and other associated traffic movements over a prolonged period".

Nearby residents have campaigned against the plans

However councillors will make the final decision on whether to accept or reject the plans at a meeting on December 17.

Network Rail has said the factory is needed to meet the industry’s demand for a million sleepers a year and will replace their present facility in Washwood Heath, Birmingham, which is to close to make way for HS2.

It has also estimated that after the factory is completed the number of HGV vehicles coming into the factory would average 30 a day, or some 7,500 a year, and not the 70,000 annual movements suggested by campaigners.

Bescot sidings yard, the site of the proposed factory

The advice to reject comes after a long campaign by Wednesbury residents who have claimed the silica used in producing the sleepers and the emissions from lorries coming on site would pollute the environment.

It will be seen as a victory for protestors who have lodged nearly 800 formal objections to the plans along with a petition containing 4,742 signatures.

In their report to a special meeting of Sandwell planning committee, officers have said: “The significant objections to this proposal are unprecedented, not only from local politicians but also from many thousands of residents and the Wednesbury Action Group, who have set out the issues associated with this type of facility both in this country and abroad and how such facilities impact on the environment.

“The proposal, as well as the objections received have been put through a rigorous process of assessment by professional consultees.”

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