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Gailey freight hub: South Staffordshire MP brands scheme 'enormous tragedy' and calls park plan a 'cheap bribe'

By Rob Golledge | South Staffordshire | News | Published:

Proposals to create two parks at a planned rail freight hub in the Staffordshire countryside have been criticised as a 'cheap bribe'.

Latest plans of the proposed rail freight hub at Four Ashes

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson said if the 700-acre West Midlands Interchange project at Gailey got the go-ahead it would be an 'enormous tragedy'.

The developer, Four Ashes Ltd, has launched a second consultation on the scheme and say it will create 8,500 jobs and £400 million for the local economy. It has also promised new parks at Croft Lane and off Straight Mile.

But Mr Williamson said it would cause 'traffic chaos' and 'irreversible damage' to the environment and green belt with 'monolithic' warehouses.

He also warned that, if approved, the project could be just the first of several phases to affect the area.

"The park plan is a cheap bribe that no-one will fall for. It is a few crumbs off the table which do not counter the monstrous, detrimental and damaging impact this project will do to our community.

"There will be traffic chaos with around half a million extra vehicle movements each month which will bring misery the residents of South Staffordshire and lose the identity of our villages and hamlets.

"It will cause irreversible environmental damage and see the destruction of mature woodland and natural habitat with a few saplings planted around the edges in an attempt to mask towering monolithic warehouses, which are totally incongruous with the green belt and countryside.

"If it goes ahead it will be an enormous tragedy."

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Four Ashes Ltd managing director Peter Frost has called on residents to think about the economic benefit of the scheme and the thousands of new jobs it would create.

He also said independent studies showed the road network can cope with increased traffic caused by the site.

But Mr Williamson rubbished Mr Frost's claims.

He said: "The simple truth is that there is virtually no unemployment in South Staffordshire. That means there is no labour here and those who would work at the site would have to travel from a distance.

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"There is no benefit for local residents while they have to put up with more congestion, more noise, and the loss of our cherished green belt.

"These warehouse jobs would also be low paid, unskilled roles. The types of jobs we should be promoting – and have been – are the high quality and skilled jobs that we have seen at JLR, Moog, and UTC aerospace."

Mr Williamson held a 'referendum' in which 99 per cent of 1,300 people said they wanted the scheme to be refused planning permission.

Plans could be submitted at the end of the year before planning inspectors assess the scheme. A decision could be made as early as January 2019.

The scheme is set to be fully operational by 2035.

Public exhibitions as part of the consultation are taking place this week.

They are: Tuesday, July 11 at Calf Heath Village Hall from 3pm to 8pm; Wednesday, July 12 at Brewood Jubilee Hall from 2pm to 7pm; Thursday, July 20 at the Haling Dene Centre in Penkridge from 3pm to 8pm; Friday, July 21 at Calf Heath Village Hall from 2pm to 7pm; and Saturday, July 22 at Coven Memorial Hall from 10am to 2pm.

Rob Golledge

By Rob Golledge
@golledge_star

Part of the Express & Star special projects team responsible for investigations and major stories from politics to counter terrorism

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