Controversial plans for massive motorway services are set to come to fruition in Solihull despite being rejected by councillors. A government town planning inspector has approved one of two plans to build a new service station off the M42, both of which were turned down by Solihull council.
Two competing companies had tendered to develop the Motorway Area (MSA) along the stretch of road. Applegreen submitted multi-million pound plans for land near Box Trees Farm near Shirley near Junction Four, while Extra MSA Group wanted to build a service next to Junction Five, between Catherine-de-Barnes and Hampton-in-Arden.
Although the latter was recommended for approval by council officers, both were turned down by committee members for fear of allowing either to cause extensive damage to the Greenbelt. The two companies then appealed the decision.
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Planning Inspector Michael Boniface denied Applegreen’s appeal but upheld Extra MSA Group’s argument for service at Junction Five. This means the company can continue with its program, which also includes a hotel – although there is a potential key in the works.
The Extra MSA Group app depended on converting the M42 into a smart motorway. However, the government has since suspended the rollout of smart highways, partly for safety reasons, meaning development could be delayed until 2025 at the earliest.
Mr. Boniface said that if smart highways are permanently shut down, the MSA program may not go ahead at all. The inspector said in conclusion: “While both schemes offer a significant advantage, the location of call B [junction 5] The site is preferable in that it would further fill gaps in supply and thus provide a slightly higher level of safety and welfare benefits to the traveling public.
The inspector said both programs would harm Green Belt, but ultimately decided that Extra MSA Group’s would be less harmful. He added: “For appeal B, I concluded that significant harm would result to the green belt. Although the level of prejudice is somewhat lower than that of Appeal A, it is nevertheless an important consideration and of substantial negative weight.
“The effect on the character and appearance of the area; loss of agricultural land (including BMV land); damage to old growth forests; and the effect on the setting of Hampton Lane Farmhouse also weighs against the proposal, as does the project’s impact on the work of the DCO to a limited extent.
“In favor of the proposals would be the satisfaction of an identified need for MSA facilities and the benefits in terms of safety and well-being for road users; the economic benefits in terms of local investment and creation of employment; landscape resource benefits through additional tree and woodland cover; net biodiversity gain and heritage benefits from the redevelopment of Walford Hall Farm.
“Cumulatively, these benefits are sufficient to clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt and all other harms, so as to constitute the very particular circumstances necessary to justify the granting of planning permission.”
The decision went on to say: “The recently announced pause in the deployment of ALR smart highways will likely delay the delivery of the Call B program and could, if the outcome of the government review is unfavourable, render planning permission inapplicable. However, it is the only acceptable MSA scheme in terms of development and able to meet the need on this section of motorway.
“There remains a good prospect that the project can proceed, and this is sufficient to grant planning permission subject to conditions which allow implementation only at a time when access can be achieved from a motorway. intelligent ALR.”
A spokesperson for Solihull Council said: ‘The Town Planning Inspector has approved the motorway service area on the M42 at Catherine-de-Barnes following an appeal. Nevertheless, there is a a number of outstanding conditions, particularly in relation to highway issues, which will need to be addressed before the system can be built.
“The decision is also open to a possible legal challenge until April 22, 2022.”