30th Nov, 2020

HS2 offers re-route for lorries in Balsall Common after council challenge

Felix Nobes 3rd Sep, 2019

HS2 Ltd has offered a compromise over plans for nearly 100 lorries per day to ‘plough’ through Balsall Common village.

But the high speed rail firm has rejected three conditions agreed by councillors to reduce air pollution and ease traffic, amid residents’ concerns.

If approved, an application to Solihull Council from HS2 would see many lorries per day carry heavy equipment up and down the Kenilworth Road (A452) to reach the Park Lane and Waste Lane works compounds.

Balsall Common residents at last month’s meeting were told the number of lorries passing along the road during early works was only an eighth of the fleet that could when main works begin.

Residents fear the already busy road will see high pollution from diesel lorries, and rising congestion.

But the firm has now proposed an alternative route down Hallmeadow Road for lorries ‘once main works commence’.

The new proposal is going before councillors on the planning committee tomorrow.

On the alternative route, HS2’s response in a report to councillors states: “We believe that by progressing this option, it demonstrates HS2’s commitment to work with the local community and help to alleviate concerns by mitigating, where possible the impact of our works.”

Last month, the planning committee called on HS2 Ltd to honour three conditions before they approved the scheme, which would enable HS2 to begin preparatory works at Balsall Common for the HS2 rail line.

Councillors at last month’s meeting resolved that if HS2 dismissed their conditions, the application would return to the planning committee where it could be rejected outright.

But HS2 now says councillors’ conditions are ‘unnecessary’ as the protections sought are already in place under the environmental requirements of the scheme, which the firm is contractually bound to.

And in a report prepared for tomorrow’s (September 4) meeting, the plans are recommended for approval by officers – despite stinging criticism from residents and some councillors at last month’s meeting.

Responding to residents’ concerns last month, councillors demanded that HS2 lorries use less polluting Euro VI engines from the outset of the works.

HS2 has now assured residents that the use of the engines will be a requirement by January 1, 2020.

The firm has also rebuffed councillors’ calls for more up-to-date air quality monitoring.

It came amid pollution fears due to the firm’s environmental statement being compiled in 2013.

The firm says necessary monitoring is already set to be undertaken, and the environmental statement says that any pollution will not have a ‘significant effect’.

And the third condition has been disregarded by HS2 as it says it has already submitted a traffic management plan to the council on May 2, but has received no feedback from the authority on it.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month announced a wholescale review of HS2 and its costs to make a final decision on whether it should be scrapped or go-ahead.

Campaigners have so far unsuccessfully argued that all preparatory works should cease until the review’s outcome.

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