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HS2 VIADUCTS: Fears viaduct designs could be done deal

HS2 VIADUCTS: Fears viaduct designs could be done deal

Designs for HS2 viaducts, Image: LDRS

Fears have been voiced that designs for hulking HS2 viaducts in Solihull will be “a done deal” by the time they’re presented to residents.

HS2 Ltd had suggested in July that updates on the key structures, which would carry the track over the River Blythe, near Hampton-in-Arden, and for a stretch near Berkswell Station, were imminent.

With both viaducts spanning several hundred metres, they will be among the major focal points on the borough leg of the route.

HS2 Ltd had previously given commitments that as “key design elements” there would be local-level discussions around their appearance and features.

And in an update this week it insisted that all feedback would be properly considered, including comments from residents.

It also confirmed the dates that local people can expect their first glimpse of the plans.

Although Andrew Burrow, who lives in Balsall Common and is a local parish councillor, was concerned the main debate would be between Solihull Council and project designers.

This would, he feared, leave the wider community presented with a “fait accompli” and render any consultation “meaningless”.

He suggested that there was a local wish list for features that would benefit the structure set to be built near Berkswell Staton.

“We want things such as glass noise barriers on the site.

“They have them on the continent so why can’t we have them here?

“We don’t want to have the things that support the cables, we want green bushes planted underneath that mean that guys with spray cans can’t get at it.”

While he said that measures to reduce the noise of passing trains and deter graffiti artists should be “simple” requests, his fear was that residents’ input could be limited to the look of more incidental elements, like signage.

Design of the viaducts was previously discussed at a Solihull Council session almost three years ago, shortly after proposals in the Chilterns had come in for considerable criticism.

More recently designs for structures at Water Orton, just over the border in North Warwickshire, have also been brought forward.

In terms of Solihull’s viaducts, officials have said efforts will be made to ensure they are a good fit for the surrounding area.

Key design elements are distinguished by the fact that they’re supposed to be tailored to individual locations rather than being a standard design.

Although this has previously come with the caveat that any modifications will still have to stick to certain engineering and safety constraints.

An HS2 spokeswoman said: “HS2 take the views of local residents very seriously.

“We will be consulting with the local community on designs for both the Blythe viaduct and the Balsall Common viaduct in due course, and all feedback will be properly considered before the final designs go for approval.”

The Balsall Common designs are due to be made public this autumn, with those for the Blythe viaduct scheduled to follow early next year.

 

Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter


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