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24th Jan, 2022

West Midlands Mayor backs calls to throw out M42 motorway service station plans

Sarah Mason 25th Jan, 2021

THE WEST Midlands Mayor has written to the Government backing calls to throw out plans to build two motorway service areas on the M42 in Solihull.

Andy Street, who leads the West Midlands Combined Authority and grew up in Solihull, has written to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, urging him to ‘call in’ the applications for further scrutiny.

The proposals – fiercely opposed by residents, former Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman and current MP Saqib Bhatti and councillors – detail plans for a stop-off at junction 4 in Shirley or on land between Hampton-in-Arden and Catherine-de-Barnes.

Decisions on the applications, which were first submitted to the planning department in 2016 and 2015 respectively, have been held off for several years.

Mr Street wrote: “Both proposals would lead to a loss of Green Belt in the Meriden Gap, which is already under considerable pressure. Development at the Catherine de Barnes site in particular would result in the loss of ancient woodland.

“The proposals have been widely opposed by local community groups and environmental charities, including The Woodland Trust.”

Decisions on the applications, which were first submitted to the planning department in 2016 and 2015 respectively, have been held off for several years.

If the new plans are ‘called-in’, the Secretary of State would issue a public inquiry into the proposals led by a planning inspector whose findings would be taken into account when a final decision is made.

Solihull’s planning 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.

A meeting has now been set for February 24 where planning permission will be determined.

Solihull Council had previously made clear it would consider the proposals together.

Earlier this month Mr Bhatti hit out at the plans after writing to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps requesting a ‘call-in’ for both applications and a public inquiry to be launched by the Planning Inspectorate.

He said: “Both of these proposals will lead to significant loss in the Meriden Gap, including Asbury Copse at Catherine de Barnes.

“In my view, there is already too much pressure on the Green Belt in Solihull and either of these motorway service stations would be a step too far.

“Crucially, I do not see the need for either service station, because the motorway exits are already well serviced in the area. I welcome Andy Street’s support and join him in asking the Secretary of State to call in the plans.”

Both applicants argue there is a clear need for a services along that stretch of motorway.

Extra MSA Group, which has applied for the services near Hampton-in-Arden and Catherine-de-Barnes, said it would create up to 300 jobs with a bus service available for employees. They would also build a hotel and a new access road.

Applegreen plc wants to create an ‘environmentally responsible’ motorway services near Shirley with extensive landscaping.


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