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Gavin Williamson steps up fight against West Midlands Interchange

By Tom Oakley | South Staffordshire | Politics | Published:

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has teamed up with campaigners in an attempt to stop a controversial rail depot being built in the countryside.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson joined the launch of Snub the Hub

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, which would be the size of 430 football pitches, has already received considerable opposition from residents and politicians.

Now – with the support of South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson and Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy – a new campaign is under way.

A map showing the proposed freight hub next to the M6, A449 and A5

Snub The Hub aims to demonstrate that the scheme is ‘completely inappropriate’ for the proposed rural location and is an ‘attack on the greenbelt’.

The Stop The West Midlands Interchange campaigners, who are behind the campaign, are urging people to join them in fighting the proposals.

'Havoc'

Mr Williamson, who visited Croft Lane in Gailey yesterday for the official launch, said the project would create havoc – impacting traffic on the A449 and surrounding roads, increasing pollution and impacting on people’s quality of life.

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“We’re standing side-by-side with residents and many concerned local people who are very fearful about this proposed development and the impact it will have to the greenbelt,” he said.

WATCH: Gavin Williamson on opposition to freight hub

West Midlands Interchange: Gavin Williamson on why he opposes freight hub

“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.

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“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.

“Not just in terms of the extra traffic going on to the M6, but the extra traffic on local roads all around the area.”

Traffic

The campaign claims the freight hub depot would see 18,624 extra vehicles on the roads each day.

This includes 6,319 lorries – the same length as a traffic jam from Junction 12 of the M6 to Manchester.

Mr Williamson at Croft Lane in Gailey

Leaflets that will be distributed around thousands of houses in South Staffordshire also say there will be 17.3 tons of extra CO2 emission daily.

Snub The Hub was launched after the Interchange project moved a step closer when the Planning Inspectorate deemed current plans acceptable.

Planning experts examined work done by applicant Four Ashes Ltd during a three-week scrutiny process and have now given the green light for the company to progress towards a full planning application.

Awareness

Donna Gilmartin, the chair of Stop The West Midlands Interchange, will see her house back on to the project if given the go ahead.

She has helped design t-shirts, posters, placards, leaflets and a website as part of the campaign.

She added: “We wanted to launch the campaign because there’s not enough awareness out there about what’s happening.

Mr Williamson chats to local resident Chloe Burns

“You speak to people who think its a done deal – which it's not.

"There is only a limited window to put your objection to the Planning Inspectorate until October 28.

“We’re fighting this tooth and nail. It’s the wrong place for this development and the roads just won’t be able to cope.”

Plans

The scheme would see a ‘Strategic Rail Freight Interchange’ built on the land, which has been chosen for its proximity to the West Coast Main Line and key main roads.

The campaigners in Croft Lane

The development would include a freight terminal capable of accommodating up to ten 775 metre-long trains a day, container storage, HGV parking and a rail control building.

Under revised plans put forward last year two new ‘community parks’ would also be created.

Four Ashes Ltd bosses say its plans would create more than 8,500 jobs and bring £427 million to the local economy and an extra £912m nationally.

They also say the interchange will support a further 8,100 jobs across the UK.

Tom Oakley

By Tom Oakley
Trainee Multi-Media Journalist

Express & Star reporter responsible for covering Walsall and Staffordshire. Got a story? Email tom.oakley@expressandstar.co.uk or call 01902 319482.

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