AN ‘IRREPLACEABLE’ ancient woodland would be damaged by a major M42 upgrade, a conservation charity claims.
The £282million congestion-busting M42 junction 6 works near Birmingham Airport and the A45 are scheduled to start in 2020.
They include new carriageways, roundabouts and roads to improve traffic flow around the M42.
But the Woodland Trust has sent a letter of objection to the Planning Inspectorate outlining concerns about the loss of an ‘irreplaceable habitat’.
It says the creation of a new southern junction (5A) around Solihull Road would damage ancient wood Aspbury Copse adjacent to the M42.
The charity says part of the woodland would be lost, damaging roots, soils, biodiversity and causing pollution.
Wildlife in the vicinity of the works could include bats, badger, otter, hedgehog, birds and the endangered great crested newt.
The charity’s campaigner Nicole Hillier sent the letter to the inspectorate, an arms length government body which provides legal recommendations in planning disputes.
In it she wrote: “While the Trust acknowledges that Aspbury’s Copse borders the existing M42 motorway, the proposed improvements will result in further direct loss to an irreplaceable habitat. Natural England has identified the direct impacts of development on ancient woodland or veteran trees.
“In summary, whilst Aspbury’s Copse will suffer direct loss to facilitate the scheme, the trust will remain strongly opposed to the proposed project and considers the scheme goes against national planning policy designed to protect against the loss of irreplaceable habitats.”
The charity’s chief argument is that the National Planning Policy Framework ensures protection for ‘irreplacable habitats’ like the woodland.
It disagrees there are ‘wholly exceptional reasons’ for the project and a ‘suitable compensation strategy exists’.
Other parts of the huge project include the creation of a new 2.4km dual carriageway link road – aligned to the west of Bickenhill – between the A45 clock Interchange.
There are also plans to improve the M42 junction 6 roundabout by providing dedicated left turn links between the M42 and A45 at the NEC and the north east side of the roundabout.
An update to be heard at next week’s cabinet meeting says five of six alterations to the plans Solihull Council has proposed to Highways England – ultimately responsible for the project – have been accepted.
The council has also warned of the potential long-term degradation of Bickenhill Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Highways England senior project manager Jonathan Pizzey said: “Once completed, the scheme will allow better movement of traffic on and off the A45, support access to the airport and preparing capacity for the new High Speed Two station.
“The planning process is ongoing and we are continuing to work with interested parties. We are still in discussions with businesses, landowners and those impacted by the scheme to try to agree a solution that suits all parties.”