THE new HS2 interchange at Arden Cross will change the face of Solihull beyond all recognition.
That’s the verdict of Chris Crean of West Midlands Friends of the Earth who believes residents haven’t yet fully realised what’s landing in the borough.
“We’re talking 5,000 new homes and a station for a high speed rail link that’s already out of date,” he said.
“Some people have called it a mini city, it’s certainly a new town with huge car parks, office developments and urban sprawl, a concrete development on what is now prime Green Belt land.
“You can certainly kiss goodbye to the Meriden Gap and the borough’s motto of Urbs in Rure, the town in the country.”
He acknowledged houses had to be built, but said this could be achieved through higher density, higher quality developments with good walking and cycling networks.
But he adds that people can still have their say on Arden Cross and the rest of the house building programme detailed in Solihull’s Local Plan which is now open for public consultation.
The Plan is a blueprint for the next 15 years of development, with land earmarked for 15,000 new homes.
Public representations on the plan will go forward with it when it is examined by a government-appointed inspector.
In all, 16 of the 18 sites identified are in the Green Belt, although less than half the homes will be built on Green Belt land.
Chris added that the ramifications of Arden Cross for Solihull and the wider West Midlands were huge as the development could seriously over-balance the region.
“There was a time when they were going to widen the M42 corridor because the area was overheating,” he said.
“Then came active traffic management and the use of the hard shoulder and the plan was dropped.
“If Solihull was overheating before, Arden Cross is going to put it at boiling point. There has been no strategic planning.”
And he questioned how Solihull Council, having declared a climate emergency, was going to achieve its ambitions to go net zero with so much development in the Green Belt.
“We have areas like the Black Country, where the infrastructure already exists,” he said.
“Instead infrastructure will be a bolt on, creating dislocated communities.
“All this development on the east side of the M42 is doing is fueling car dependency, repeating the same issues that still exist today in Cheswick Green and Dickens Heath.”
He added that, given the new White Paper on planning reform, Solihull residents were in a rare position of having a democratic say on the Plan before the proposed zonal system of planning comes in, taking that right away from them.
“It’s the last chance saloon for people to have their say,” he said.
“If you have concerns about this Plan, use the process and your best efforts and ensure you have done everything you can to make sure you stop rampant development across the Meriden Gap.”