THE government is considering intervening over a controversial planned 2500-home development at King’s Hill on the Coventry and Warwickshire border – amid further delays and dire traffic congestion forecasts on main commuter routes.
Supported by some MPs and councillors, campaigners have been lobbying ministers to ‘call in’ the scheme for a review over future traffic projections for already heavily congested main arterial routes including the A45 and A46, and between the University of Warwick and the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh.
In communication seen by the Observer, officials for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have confirmed Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP is considering a call-in of the planning applications – taking decisions out of local council planners’ hands – after receiving a “high volume of representations”.
The huge housing development off Stoneleigh Road on former Greenbelt land near Gibbet Hill stretching to Finham in Coventry received planning consent last December from Warwick and Coventry councils. It was part of housing targets for around 30,000 more homes for Coventry in the next decade and nationally driven population growth forecasts. A further 1,500 homes could be added in a second phase.
Further delays have now hit the planned major upgrade of the nearby A46 Stoneleigh junction which had been due to start last summer. It is now expected to start this autumn with completion in 2022, and highways officers say funding is now in place.
Controversy remains over a planned new link road from the junction’s new roundabout to Westwood Heath and the university, with consultation due this autumn.
There is also uncertainty over a suggested third phase which would extend the A46 link road onwards to Solihull borough at Balsall Common and the A45 towards a new HS2 Interchange station near the NEC.
Coventry council highways manager Colin Stonehouse said in writing recently to a resident: “No work is currently being undertaken on future phases of the A46 Link which would potentially connect through to the A452 or the A45.”
His colleague Richard Hall wrote in another letter: “Even following delivery of phase 2 of the proposed A46 link road, the results of modelling undertaken appear to indicate a continuation of queuing and congestion on sections of the network with little prospect of further network expansion to mitigate the impact.”
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s Warwickshire branch and the Keep Our Green Belt Green protest group are now lobbying politicians. They are highlighting a ‘flawed’ report by consultants ARUP, which forecast even more traffic at main A45 and A46 islands yet concluded the highways network could cope.
Commuters are familiar with long tail-backs in rush-hour at the A46 Island at Kenilworth, through Stoneleigh, the A45/A46 Stivichall junction, and beyond to Tollbar Island and A45 Kenpas Highway.
Sir Andrew Watson, chair of CPRE Warwickshire has now written to Kenilworth MP Jeremy Wright who has previously raised concerns, as have Coventry South Labour MP Zarah Sultana, Coventry Conservative ward councillors, and nearby parish councils.
Sir Andrew states planners had mysteriously assumed ‘historic’ 15 per cent shifts to cycling and public transport from car travel, despite the contradictory evidence of the last two decades.
He adds: “King’s Hill is just one area of Green belt around Coventry where owners are proposing sizeable developments, which will have devastating cumulative effects on the road network and on air quality both locally and in the city centre and adjoining major roads.
“Medical records from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, show rising admissions for chest and respiratory illness while local air quality has worsened.”
Residents in the area are also expecting increased congestion with ongoing road closures and roadworks due to building the HS2 rail line, and with developments at Whitley and the Gateway near Coventry airport.
This week, Coventry City Football Club announced early proposals for a new stadium at the University of Warwick, which could partly depend on public transport and the already planned new infrastructure including the A46 link road.