Temporary permission granted for HS2 compound on former airfield

Councillors have given the green light for a temporary compound to be built on land at the former Hixon Airfield as part of work on the new HS2 line.

Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of the potential HS2 train design
Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of the potential HS2 train design

The compound will be used in connection with off-site ground investigation works and permission has been granted for it to remain in place until August 31 2022. Up to 40 full time employees are set to use the site, which would operate between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

There will be three portable cabins to provide office and welfare facilities, three temporary buildings for storage, three associated office cabins, a security cabin and an open storage area. The site will be enclosed by 2.5m high fencing and gates.

Stafford Borough Council previously granted temporary permission for the site in May 2019, with an end date of August 2020. This permission was not put into use however and has now lapsed.

Hixon parish and borough councillor Brendan McKeown called in the latest application for consideration by Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee because the site is not within the Hixon Airfield Industrial Estate boundary defined in the Plan for Stafford and the adopted Hixon Neighbourhood Plan.

Stowe by Chartley Parish Council member Tom Lyons also raised concerns about the proposals at Wednesday’s planning committee meeting.

He said: “The site is on designated agricultural land. The runway land was to be returned to its original use following decommission after World War Two. This is not a brownfield site.

Impact

“The site is in open countryside and this development would have an undesirable visual effect. The road required to access this site would be across agricultural land and have a very undesirable visual impact. The proposed site interferes with a number of public footpaths and would have an unwelcome visual impact on the users of the footpaths.

“There are other sites on the airfield estate that are more suitable; two of which are within the industrial estate boundary. There is land identified within the boundary that has planning permission for industrial use and which has not yet been developed.

“We query why another compound in this vicinity is required for HS2 as there are already a number of other sites identified for use by HS2 for storage etc in the Hixon area. Three properties have been purchased by HS2, all within 2,000m of this proposed site. Why could not one of these be used instead of building new?”

But Matthew Marshall, who spoke in support of the application, said: “Given that your authority has previously given planning permission for this use here, and there has been no change in circumstances, we consider it to remain an appropriate location for this use. Whilst the compound would be outside the formal estate boundary it would be on the existing former runway hard standing and not on greenfield or agricultural land.

Signs

“Any visual impact would be temporary, with any low portable buildings or structures within a well-defined enclosure which would all be removed when the use ceases. The access follows existing estate roads and tracks and there would be no intrusion of any new development into open countryside.

“There would be no traffic generated into Hixon village because of routing and the use would generate relatively low levels of traffic, limited to weekdays only between 7am and 6pm. Part of the public footpath would be shared by vehicles for a short distance, but these would be travelling at less than 10mph and signs would be in place to warn pedestrians.

“There is a need for a temporary compound up until the end of August 2022 to support essential pre-development ground investigations along this part of the HS2 route. Compounds close to the investigation site minimise the movements on public roads and disruption for the local community.”

Committee members voted to approve the latest application at Wednesday’s meeting.

Councillor Marnie Phillips said: “We have already granted planning permission on this site. The reality is if it went to planning appeal permission would be granted on this site.

“I don’t see how we can refuse it.”

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