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Confusion as West Midlands Interchange decision delayed

By Richard Guttridge | Staffordshire | Transport | Published:

There was confusion today about a huge rail depot planned for Staffordshire after a decision on whether it should go ahead was delayed.

Four Ashes, where the West Midlands Interchange rail freight hub would be built

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had until Thursday to make a decision on the West Midlands Interchange planned for Gailey but an update posted this afternoon on the national Planning Inspectorate website said the proposals remained with Mr Shapps "for consideration".

Campaigners who have been fighting against the plans for four years have been left frustrated by the delay, for which there has been no explanation. It has also not been made clear when a decision will be made. The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.

Donna Gilmartin, who heads the Stop West Midlands Interchange group, said: "It is frustrating. We were told there would be a decision on the 27th.

"We haven't slept all night wondering what is going to happen. Now we're waiting. It is the least we can expect. This will be life-changing for people."

Councillor David Williams said South Staffordshire District Council had contacted the Planning Inspectorate amid the confusion and that a decision was not expected today.

He said on Facebook: "By way of an update, we, South Staffordshire District Council, have been back in touch with the Planning Inspectorate again this afternoon and they have advised us that the application has not yet been issued by the Secretary of State and will not be issued today either I’m afraid.

"Officers will pick this up again with the Planning Inspectorate on Monday and we will keep you updated as and when we know more."

It comes after petition against the Interchange, signed by nearly 3,000 people was presented to Parliament by Stafford MP Theo Clarke who said the South Staffordshire green belt would be "devastated" if it goes ahead.

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The Interchange would see 700 acres of land torn up close to the A5, A449 and M6 at Gailey, Four Ashes and Calf Heath.

Residents fear the development would lead to increased traffic and pollution.

People from surrounding villages including Gailey, Penkridge, Wheaton Aston and Bishops Wood signed the petition, which is backed by South Staffordshire MP and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who is also against the plans.

Mr Shapps has been asked to "take all possible steps to reject these proposals and to ensure that the green belt is maintained for the benefit of future generations".

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Ms Clarke said: “I am fully supporting those local residents who oppose the plans for the West Midlands Interchange and as their local member of Parliament, it is my job to be a local champion for them in Parliament and I shall stand up for everyone who opposes these plans, which would devastate our local green belt.

“Having visited the proposed site myself and met with the residents who would be directly affected by it, I am determined to do all that I can to help them.

"It is vital that we continue to protect our precious green belt as well as reducing the congestion the Interchange would bring to local roads around Stafford.”

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.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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