CONTROVERSIAL plans to build two motorway service stations on the M42 in Solihull have been thrown out.
Solihull Council’s planning committee unanimously refused both applications for a stop off at junction 4 in Shirley or on land between Hampton-in-Arden and Catherine-de-Barnes on the grounds that it goes against the Solihull Local plan.
The proposals have been fiercely opposed by residents, former Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman and current MP Saqib Bhatti and councillors since they were handed to the council in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Campaigners were dismayed last week when documents revealed council officers had recommended that committee members should be “minded to approve” the Catherine de Barnes scheme.
Although councillors quickly made clear they were deeply unhappy with both proposals, which they said would mean the permanent loss of a large section of greenbelt.
During the three-hour debate it became apparent that councillors felt neither development could justify the loss of such a significant piece of the Meriden Gap, which is seen as a crucial barrier against urban sprawl.
Speaking at the meeting Councillor Jim Ryan said: “”If the applicant for Catherine de Barnes set out to find the worst site for a MSA [motorway service area] then I congratulate them, they’ve found it.
“Nothing can mitigate the loss of so much greenbelt, habitats, hedgerows.
“It’s just massive when you take it all into consideration.
“If this application was to go ahead, it would be a ghastly folly of destruction in this particular area.”
Coun David Cole said: “We’ve been nibbling away at this little area [the Meriden Gap] for years and years and years; we’ve had the airport extension, we’ve had the railway station put in, we’ve had the NEC built and then the NEC extension and don’t forget the M42 itself – that ploughed through greenbelt land originally.
“I say to myself ‘where is it all going to end?’ Are we going to build tarmac straight over up to Coventry … We have got to put a stake in the ground somewhere.”
Decisions on the applications had been held off for several years.
Originally the committee had been due to determine an outcome in March 2019, but the meeting was postponed after Applegreen Plc, the company behind the junction 4 scheme, asked for its application to be deferred.
Solihull Council had previously made clear it would consider the proposals together.
Following the news Meriden MP Saqib Bhatti said: “This is excellent news for residents, neither of these developments are necessary and they would lead to irrevocable damage to our greenbelt.
“The planning committee made absolutely the right decision – enough is enough.
“I am very pleased to see the planning committee reject these proposals – above all, this is a victory for our residents”.