Fears that HS2 lorries will add to air pollution and queues in Solihull village

Up to 100 extra lorries a day are set to “plough through” a Solihull village as part of the latest preparations for the HS2 rail project.

Those living in the Balsall Common area have grave concerns the construction traffic will pile fresh pressure on already busy roads and increase air pollution.

Last week, #SolihullCouncil said it was “minded to approve” plans for HGV routes from the A45 roundabout to the site of compounds in Park Lane and Waste Lane.

Although the planning committee has laid out several conditions in an attempt to reduce the impact the increased activity will have on those living nearby.

With the volume of lorries discussed only “an eighth” of what might be seen once the work is in full swing, members said they wanted to lay down “a marker”.

However, HS2 Ltd could choose to reject these requests – which would see the application go back to councillors.

Cllr Jim Ryan (Con, Bickenhill) said the process behind the project was “grossly unfair”, with residents being “kept in the dark” and local authorities having very little input.

“Even if we were to refuse this here this evening, do you think they’d stop? Of course not,” he said.

“They will still plough on really with what they want to do and push the local democratic process aside. That’s the power they’ve got.

“So we are just whistling in the wind trying to do our best for the local communities. Honestly. Truthfully.”

Cllr Karl Macnaughton (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said there were “significant health and safety implications” and the council should put conditions to HS2 bosses to see what they would say.

Cllr Diana Holl-Allen (Con, Knowle) argued that now the plans were finally in front of the committee it had to try and press for improvements, but she accepted the route wouldn’t change.

“We knew this was all going to start happening … and I have to say this is the beginning of an awful lot more.”

Ward councillor Diane Howell (Con, Meriden) had laid out the proposals to minimise the impact on locals, which were ultimately adopted by the committee.

She said the route would take lorries through the village centre, pass near to two schools and a nursery and three sheltered housing schemes, and that the vehicles would “inevitably” be left idling on the heavily congested Kenilworth Road.

“This is the first of many Schedule 17 applications that will be made by HS2,” she told the meeting.

“Future applications relating to vehicle movements during the construction phase may be proposing an even higher number of large goods vehicles to pass through residential areas.

“It is important that a precedent is set and that HS2 are seen to be taking the welfare of residents living, working and being schooled along their construction traffic routes seriously.”

The conditions agreed were:

• A robust air quality and dust monitoring strategy, with input from HS2, including baseline monitoring;

• Use of more environmentally-friendly ‘Euro VI’ vehicles from the start of this work;

• A traffic management strategy to reduce noise and congestion.

However, Berkswell resident Sheila Cooper had earlier in the evening urged councillors to refuse the application altogether.

“We have a moral duty to protect the health, safety and well-being of affected residents, of all ages, living in Berkswell and Balsall Common,” she said.

Alan Payne, from HS2 Ltd, explained that the routes would allow “early works” linked to the development, including the creation of compounds, drainage schemes and diversions.

“We do understand the concerns of the community, but in order to build the railway and comply with the Act of Parliament these are the most appropriate lorry routes which are available to us,” he said.

Paul Tovey, from the council’s highways team, confirmed that the limited number of crossings over the existing West Coast Mainline ruled out alternative options.

Planners must now wait for a response to the conditions they have put forward.

Read more: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/fears-hs2-lorries-add-air-16728431