Green light for huge West Midlands freight rail hub

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has granted a development consent order for a new 282ha freight rail interchange in the West Midlands.

The £8.5M project consists of a freight terminal which connects to the West Coast Main Line and which can handle 10 trains per day. The site will be able to handle trains up to 775m long and will include HGV parking, container storage and rail control buildings.

Work will also include new road infrastructure to reduce traffic flow and improvements to local roads; demolition of existing structures and structural earthworks to create development plots and landscape zones. Electricity pylons and cables will also be repositioned or buried.

The application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration by Four Ashes Ltd in August 2018.

The Planning Inspectorate chief executive Sarah Richards said: “This is the 84th nationally significant infrastructure project to have been examined and decided within the timescales laid down in the Planning Act 2008.

“The Planning Inspectorate is committed to giving local communities the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them. Local people, the local authority and other interested parties were able to participate in a six-month long examination.

“The Examining Authority listened and gave full consideration to local views before making their recommendation.”

This hub involves the development of an intermodal rail freight terminal and more than 732,000m² of warehousing space on land adjacent to junction 12 of the M6 at Gailey.

Staffordshire Conservative MPs, Jeremy Lefroy and defence secretary Gavin Williamson, have previously objected to the scheme because of its size, and because of the noise it will generate. They also argue it is on green belt land. The developer claims it will create 8,550 jobs when complete and generate £427M annually in economic benefits for the local economy.

Following initial consultations Four Ashes revised the original scheme to include strategic landscaping and two new “community parks”, the addition of a 100m wide “eco corridor”, plus improvements to the banks of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, which passes through the depot site.

Much of the land earmarked for development is currently used for arable farming, alongside the 36ha Calf Heath Quarry on the eastern edge of the site, which is used from sand and gravel extraction.

CECA Midlands director Dawn Karakatsanis added: “The green light for this scheme is good news for the logistics economy in the Midlands.

“When built, it will be linked directly to the West Coast Main Line, one of the UK’s most important rail freight routes, and will enable the transport of goods both to and from the West Midlands more efficiently.

“By boosting freight capacity it will ease congestion on the nation’s roads, as well as producing significantly less carbon emissions through reducing the use of heavy goods vehicles.

“Now that the development consent has been given go ahead, we hope that works on this scheme can move forward quickly to market without delay.”