CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a new Motorway Services Area (MSA) in the heart of the Solihull countryside – between Hampton-in-Arden and Catherine-de-Barnes – have been handed to Solihull Council.
The £65 million project – which if given planning permission would create 300 permanent jobs when open and additional jobs during construction – would be located on a parcel of land between the M42 and Solihull Road.
Extra MSA Group, the leading developer, investment owner and operator of motorway service areas have put forward plans to build services and a hotel between junctions five and six of the carriageway and would serve up to 80,000 travellers heading both directions each week.
The services would have a rolling grass roof and will be blended into the natural shape of the landscape, linking the facilities building and hotel and would also provide an extra 7.84 hectares(ha) of new woodland around the new junction and access roads.
It was also revealed there would be a ‘good and regular daily bus service’ for employees, along Solihull Road and connecting to residential areas within the borough.
The services would only be accessible by a purpose-built slip road on the M42 and developers have admitted that 0.13ha of ancient woodland and 0.09ha of secondary broadleaved woodland because of these and there would be a new bridge built beneath Solihull Road.
The initial plans came under fire from campaigners including villagers from Catherine-de-Barnes, Hampton and Barston – along with Meriden MP Caroline Spelman, Solihull Council leader Bob Sleigh and Bickenhil councillor Alison Rolf when they were first put forward in December.
At the time they raised concerns over the services eating up the Greenbelt land and the erosion of the Meriden Gap, the proximity of the extended airport runway, damage to the local wildlife and flora and the damaging effect it will have on local residents.
However Andrew Long, chief executive of Extra MSA Group, said they had made ‘significant amendments’ to the layout and design of the complex, with the main buildings repositioned and better assimilated into the surrounding area.
He added: “We have carefully listened to feedback from all parties involved in the public consultation and have appropriately revised our proposals in various areas to reflect their input.”
“The high quality sustainable design is bespoke to this site and respects the natural landscape setting.
“The service area will meet an important safety and welfare need for motorists travelling through this part of the Midlands’ motorway network, bringing widespread social and economic benefits.”
Previous proposals for MSAs along the Solihull stretch of the M42 have been thrown out by the Secretary of State, although he agreed there was a need for one.
If planning permission is granted by Solihull Council the developers hope to have the services up and running by early 2018.