CONTROVERSIAL plans for an initial 100 lorries per day through Balsall Common for HS2 preparatory works have been approved – despite residents and councillors’ concerns.
And the high speed rail company’s alternative route proposals for lorries via Hallmeadow Road ‘once main works begin’ – tabled in response to the public’s concerns – will go before the planning committee in the coming months.
The new proposal was heard last week as Solihull councillors on the planning committee narrowly accepted plans that would see the initial 100 lorries travel through the village via Kenilworth Road (A452).
Approval came after councillors had previously insisted that HS2 must comply with the planning committee’s conditions aimed at minimising air pollution and traffic congestion.
Tory councillor Jim Ryan, who opposed plans, said the council is ‘helpless’ when faced with the ‘extraordinary power’ of HS2 to dismiss community concerns.
The firm was seeking approval for its lorries to carry heavy equipment up and down the Kenilworth Road (A452) to reach the Park Lane and Waste Lane works compounds during early works.
The application for the initial lorries was passed after three of the eight members on the planning committee voted in favour, with two against and three abstentions.
Eventually more than 800 lorries could pass through the village per day, council officers say, when Hallmeadow Road would be used.
At the meeting, resident Sheila Cooper told councillors: “The use of Hallmeadow Road is unacceptable and does not safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of local residents.
“Your affected borough residents deserve your unreserved support in maintaining an acceptable way of life during the uncertainty of the project.
“My heartfelt request to the committee is that they have the guts to refuse this application and question what is right in their heads and hearts.”
She questioned why early works were being allowed to continue despite the government’s launch of a review into HS2 which could see it scrapped.
Last week, HS2 Ltd announced it expects delays of up to five years (to 2031) for phase one between London and Birmingham, and the projected budget has risen again from £56million to up to £88million.
Fellow resident Oliver Jacobs said in an email to us: “Hallmeadow Road is not a suitable alternative given the large, local population within the neighbouring housing estates, and the further risks that would be brought about by the need to adapt the road.”
He expressed concerns over the removal of speed bumps and the need for robust parking restrictions on the road.
Councillor Jim Ryan said: “The residents are looking to the only body they have got, the council, to protect their interests.
“HS2 have got extraordinary power to do what they want to do.
“That’s handed to them by Parliament without proper discussion in my view.
“They’ve got feudal power, chairman, going back years to the massive gentry that controlled the area.
“So I think this committee can make a stand and support the local residents of Balsall Common and Berkswell.
“We want further clarification on all these points and we want proper engagement with local residents.”
The council has previously said it would approve the scheme it an acceptable HS2 Ltd traffic management plan is submitted, less polluting Euro VI engines are used and air quality monitoring is provided by HS2.
As we reported last week, HS2’s Alan Payne has said 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.
He added: “To address the concerns we’re suggesting an alternative route by utilising Hallmeadow Road and a new access off the roundabout on Station Road.
“This will mitigate many of the concerns raised and take about 12 months to complete.
“It will reduce the traffic impact and remove up to 300 lorries a day off the designated routes through the village and Waste Lane.”
Euro VI engines will be used from January 1 and most of the fleet already use them, council officers told councillors.
And Solihull Council will itself undertake air quality monitoring for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10 and 2.5) in Balsall Common – to provide a baseline and prevent excessive pollution.
Green Party Councillor Max McLoughlin said: “There should be an obligation on HS2 to be measuring and monitoring this.
“It costs between 12 and £20,000 to set up the equipment. And it should be carrying out measurements itself.”