COUNCILLORS have challenged HS2 over plans for nearly 100 lorries per day to ‘plough’ through a Solihull village – amid residents’ pollution and traffic concerns.
Members at last week’s planning committee called on HS2 Ltd to honour three conditions before beginning early railway construction works.
Balsall Common residents fear the already busy Kenilworth Road (A452) will be suffocated by polluting diesel lorries, while congestion will increase.
If approved, the application to Solihull Council from HS2 Ltd would see the battalion of lorries carry heavy equipment up and down the Kenilworth Road to reach the Park Lane and Waste Lane works compounds.
Residents were told the number of lorries passing through the village was only an eighth of the fleet that could when railway works begin in earnest.
The scheme was approved in principle but committee members agreed three conditions for HS2’s consideration.
They include HS2 contributing to air quality monitoring on the road, to provide ‘baseline’ emissions readings.
They also called for a traffic management plan to reduce noise and congestion and help with much-needed upgrades on the road where potholes and other damage has appeared.
And lastly they appealed for the less-polluting Euro VI engines to be used – as they are in London – to cut any harmful emissions.
Councillors resolved that if HS2 dismissed their conditions, then the application would return to the planning committee where it could be rejected outright.
The three conditions were set out in a series of passionate speeches by village resident Sheila Cooper – who wanted the scheme overturned – and Meriden councillor Diane Howell.
But Bickenhill councillor Jim Ryan stole the show as he launched a scathing rebuke of HS2’s ‘undemocratic’ and ‘grossly unfair’ practices.
He said: “They have been trained not to tell you anything, keep you in the dark, keep you guessing and in a state of frustration.
“And even if we were to refuse this here this evening, do you think they’d stop? Of course not.
“They will still plough on with what they want to do and push the local democratic process aside – that’s the power they’ve got.”
His tirade ended with a call for HS2 to find an alternative route.
Ms Cooper raised concerns that the air quality assessment, undertaken in 2013, was out of date.
She called for particular attention to be paid to harmful particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) which is not being recorded by the council and is not included in HS2’s assessment.
She bemoaned the lack of information provided by HS2, saying its ‘lack of openness and transparency is institutional’.
But HS2’s Alan Payne said assessments had found extra lorries would have a ‘low impact’ on the environment or human health.
He said the works – set to begin in September – were essential to avoid delays or increased costs to the overall project.
He said: “We understand the concerns of the community, but in order to build the railway and comply with the Act of Parliament (High Speed Rail Act 2017), these are the most appropriate lorry routes which are available to us.”
Council highways officer Paul Tovey said: “It is the only route available that is classified and capable of carrying that extra volume of traffic.” He said the West Coast Mainline was the main obstacle to opting for alternative routes.