The application for a motorway service area near junction 4 of the M42 in Solihull is moving on at pace. The application, first submitted in 2016, was held in abeyance by Highways England, essentially because of proposals to create better links to the airport between junctions 5 and 6. Also held in abeyance was a different application to build a service station near to junction 5. Details for this application can be found below. Also below is the link to the on-line petition calling for the application to be refused.
Although there are two planning applications in the boroughs planning system it is reasonable to expect that only one will eventually succeed, if any at all. Although the case for an MSA ‘somewhere’ on the M42 between Hopwood and the NEC junction is made the location is not. The applicants are though pushing Solihull planners for a decision date for determination and have stipulated it should be made very soon.
This post will relate to the application by Applegreen to develop an MSA at junction 4, on land off Gate Lane. Although this site is within neighbouring Dorridge and Hockley Heath ward it sits on the boundary with Blythe ward, which Councillors Ken Hawkins and James Butler represent. The concerns are serious because it is expected 75% of all vehicular traffic will access/egress the MSA via the roundabout at the A34 Stratford Road and M42. This is within Blythe ward and the effect on existing infrastructure in the area and on investment on Blythe Valley Park and Fore Business Park, as well as residents of nearby communities will be considerable. It is also important to note that councillors in a neighbouring ward should not comment on any environmental concerns they have for a development not in their own ward.
The location of the MSA is shown above, together with latest submitted documents and links to the application below. This shows the magnitude of the application and safety concerns highlighted by Highways England since the application was first submitted. What is not referenced in these documents is the effect of existing businesses and communities and this is what concerns Ken and James.
I have provided links to three recent documents relating to the application which makes me feel the application is almost ready for determination and that issues raised by Highways England may have been addressed.
The push for determination by Solihull Council is clear and the below snapshot shows what developers expect. The full letter (from representatives acting for the developers of the Junction 5 MSA proposal) which is one of many documents on the councils planning portal, can be read here: PL_2015_51409_PPOL-EXTENSION_OF_TIME-996499
The Tesco/Notcutts stores already bring thousands of vehicle movements every day, with Tesco also being a 24 hour operating store. Further along the A34 and also on the same side of the highway is a large drive through McDonald’s restaurant.
Also very close by is Fore Business Park, which has seen recent planning applications to develop the footprint of the site to capacity. Furthermore, commercial developments along the A34 can be anticipated, adding more complexity to the highway between the M42 Island and the approach to Shirley.
Of major concern is any effect on Blythe Valley Business Park (BVP) which is seeing substantial commercial investment since the application to build houses and a care home. With the development of 1000 new homes (including the care facility), possibly a hotel, together with increased vehicular movements, the effect at the island at M42/junction 4 will be considerable even without the presence of a MSA. It must be recognised that about 75% of all traffic movement to and from the proposed MSA will have to circumnavigate the traffic island.
It does seem unusual for large housing developments to be within a short distance of an MSA but within a 1 to 2 mile distance of the proposed MSA we have the large Monkspath housing development, which leads onto the similarly sized Hillfield. Also within this distance is the established Cheswick Green Village, closely followed by Dickens Heath. The main Stratford Road leads onto the densely populated Shirley, which also has many stores on its High Street.
Already residents witness problems driving to and from work places and schools at peak times. The M42 has become increasing more busy and the presence of an MSA that relies on traffic to access and egress the site via a heavily used traffic island will only exacerbate present problems. It is therefore suggested that any economic benefit from the MSA (jobs included) will be negated through journey times made longer due to congestion.
The air quality on motorways does not have a great adverse impact on residents of the housing developments mentioned above because they are set back from the motorway. However, junction 4 is used as a route to Birmingham City Centre and through routes from there. We could anticipate a greater use of the A34 as a route to Birmingham if an MSA is conveniently situated near to junction 4. This can only serve to impact on air quality further along the Stratford Road in Shirley, Hall Green and other areas of Birmingham. Any measure to try to make the air quality in Shirley and Solihull better than it is now can only be harmed through more vehicles using the Stratford Road for journeys to Birmingham and further on.
As I have explained above, I will leave others to comment on the environmental impact of the proposed site but the proposal for an M42 Motorway Service Area at junction 4 must be opposed and rejected because of the concerns I have laid out.
I do not want to get into an argument of ‘either its Junction 5 or 4’ and each application must be taken on its merits. What is certain though is that an MSA with a dedicated motorway access/egress does reduce the impact on existing and planned infrastructure, commercial investment, and more importantly those who live nearby.
The application by Applegreen must therefore not succeed.
You can add your name to opposing the planned Motorway Service Area via this link: https://www.change.org/p/solihull-metropolitan-borough-council-stop-motorway-service-area-at-junction-4-m42
Links to relevant documents – enter the reference number of the council planning portal to access hundreds of documents. Enter the reference number in the relevant field on the councils planning portal: https://publicaccess.solihull.gov.uk/online-applications/
The application by Applegreen for a MSA near to junction 4 is PL/2016/02754/MAJFOT | Development of new motorway service area, associated highway improvement works and other associated infrastructure. | Land Adjacent J4 M42 Box Tree Farm Stratford Road Hockley Heath Solihull
The application by ‘Extra’ for a MSA near to junction 5 is – PL/2015/51409/PPOL | Outline application for a motorway service area, new motorway junction and access road from M42 including underpass beneath Solihull Road, demolition of the existing Solihull Road bridge across the M42 and its replacement with a new bridge and associated works (means of access for consideration). | Proposed Motorway Service Area Solihull Road Hampton In Arden Solihull