Planning experts get closer look at controversial Gailey rail freight hub
Planning experts have arrived in Staffordshire to inspect the proposed site of a hugely controversial rail depot.
The West Midlands Interchange could be built on 700 acres of countryside on land bordered by the A5, A449 and M6 at Gailey, Four Ashes and Calf Heath.
The project is vehemently opposed by hundreds of residents as well as county MPs Gavin Williamson and Jeremy Lefroy.
A fierce campaign is being fought by people in the area to try and stop the development.
The plans are currently being examined by experts with a final decision not expected until early next year. Planning officials have been in Staffordshire this week inspecting various parts of the site in the latest stage of the long-running application process.
The campaign, called Snub The Hub, claims the rail scheme is "completely inappropriate" for the rural location and is an "attack on the greenbelt".
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.
Part of the reason for the visit will be to allow experts to determine impacts on the environment and traffic volumes, which have been raised by residents and politicians as major concerns.
The public examination stage of the application will continue until the end of the August after which the Planning Inspectorate will make a recommendation to the Government.
South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson, the former Defence Secretary, is the most high-profile opponent of the scheme which would have a direct impact on his constituency.
Backing the Snub the Hub campaign last year, he said: "It was quite obvious to me that this is the wrong type of development for the wrong area and we want to make that absolutely clear.
"It is something that the local authority doesn’t want, it’s something residents don’t want and I just want to lend my voice of support to their objections.
"The challenge we’re going to have is not just the destruction of the greenbelt but the hundreds of thousands of extra vehicles that we will be seeing."