Controversial plans for a 282ha rail freight hub on green belt land north of Wolverhampton are to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate.
Four Ashes – a development consortium headed by rail infrastructure specialist Kilbride Holdings – has applied for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to allow it to press ahead with its West Midlands Interchange scheme. This involves the development of an intermodal rail freight terminal and more than 732,000m² of warehousing space on land adjacent to junction 12 of the M6 at Gailey.
Staffordshire Conservative MPs, Jeremy Lefroy and defence secretary Gavin Williamson, have objected to the scheme because of its size, and because of the noise it will generate. They also argue it is on green belt land. Thed developer claims it will create 8,550 jobs when complete and generate £427M annually in economic benefits for the local economy.
The £8.5M project consists of a freight terminal which connects to the West Coast Main Line andwhic can handle 10 trains per day. The site will be able to handle trains up to 775m long and will include HGV parking, container storage and rail control buildings.
Work will also include new road infrastructure to reduce traffic flow and improvements to local roads; demolition of existing structures and structural earthworks to create development plots and landscape zones. Electricity pylons and cables will also be repositioned or buried.
Following initial consultations Four Ashes revised the original scheme to include strategic landscaping and two new “community parks”, the addition of a 100m wide “eco corridor”, plus improvements to the banks of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, which passes through the depot site. Locals have also had a say on the location of new roundabouts.
Four Ashes managing director Peter Frost said: “We have carried out extensive consultation with residents and other interested parties, and have received very positive feedback. People realise that we are trying to minimise the impact on them and the environment.
“There is an overwhelming demand case for this development, and should it progress it will bring significant benefits to the local and regional economy.”
Much of the land earmarked for development is currently used for arable farming, alongside the 36ha Calf Heath Quarry on the eastern edge of the site, which is used from sand and gravel extraction.
The Four Ashes consortium also includes property firm Grosvenor Group and majority landowner Piers Monckton. A final decision on the scheme is not expected until at least the end of 2019.