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SOLIHULL: Backlash over M42 project road closure

SOLIHULL: Backlash over M42 project road closure

Image: LDRS

Villagers in Solihull were given just eight days’ notice of an 18-month road closure, despite warnings the plans will cause “serious disruption”.

Residents in Hampton-in-Arden and Catherine de Barnes were left reeling after learning just days ago that, as of Monday, a section of Solihull Road would be shut until December 2022.

The controversial plans, affecting a stretch between the B4102 roundabout at Barbers Coppice and Eastcote Lane, form part of the multi-million pound upgrade of the M42’s Junction 6.

With around 8,000 vehicles using the route every day, there are major concerns about the impact the diversion will have on the local area.

Highways England, which is overseeing the scheme, has been condemned for announcing the changes just over a week before they were due to take effect.

Although the government-owned company – responsible for the nation’s motorways and A roads – maintains its plans will mean reducing the time needed for this part of the project by at least five months.

Hampton-in-Arden resident and parish council chair Mike Blomer said the announcement had caused great concern.

“It dropped completely out of the blue … we had not heard anything about it whatsoever,” he said.

“We were trying to get more information about why it’s happening and what’s going on when the proverbial hit the fan as far as residents are concerned and Facebook went mad.”

He said the impact on ambulance response times and whether the surrounding country lanes could cope with increased traffic were among the issues that needed to be dealt with.

And he was also worried about how diversions would work in practice.

“You can imagine what’s going to happen when a bus and HGV come up to each other. It’s going to be a bit chaotic at times.”

Dave Cuthbert, from Catherine de Barnes Residents’ Association, said there was concern that the proposals actually went against what had been laid out in the Development Consent Order (DCO) – which had given the scheme the green light last year.

He said the lack of notice and the fact the community appeared to have been handed a “fait accompli” had fuelled a lot of the anger.

“They seem to be a bit of a rule unto themselves,” he said.

“As we were being told the signs were going up, so social media was going mad.”

Among those to raise concerns was Emma Blount, who said: “It’s not on but it’s not a surprise anymore, seeing how residents have been treated regarding HS2. These companies care only about themselves.

“I also dread to think about the number of large HGVs – that have quietly been increasing in number through Meriden – that will now impact the local area.”

Fellow resident Judi Turner said: “No one cares these days they just do what they like. That is an important road to get to Solihull and a very long time it will be closed.”

While Jean Hodson, who relies on local bus services, was concerned about the implications for public transport and branded the issue “a flipping mess.”

A flyer detailing the changes confirms that both the X20 and 89 bus services will be diverted, with increased journey times of between six to nine minutes.

As anger mounted, Meriden’s MP Saqib Bhatti confirmed he had written to Highways England to raise concerns about the handling of the process.

“This will cause serious disruption for residents in Hampton in Arden and will have a severe impact on local businesses who are only just getting back on their feet,” he said.

“Residents have already expressed concern that the diversion route will bring additional traffic onto small local lanes which are ill-suited for more vehicles.”

In his letter to transport bosses, he pressed for further details on the risk assessments for use of these rural routes and how construction contractor Skanska intended to minimise the impact.

Anita Prashar, HE’s programme leader, said: “We fully understand the concerns raised and we’re committed to working with local businesses and residents to keep disruption to a minimum while we deliver this vital upgrade, which will support economic growth and planned development in the region.

“By closing this section of Solihull Road, we’ll be able to build a temporary road that links our site directly to the M42.

“This will significantly reduce the amount of construction traffic on local roads and reduce the overall time needed to build this part of the scheme by at least five months.

“We’ve planned this work carefully so that we’ll be able to maintain access for residents and to nearby land.”

An online discussion will take place on Wednesday, June 23 and starts at 6pm.
Residents can email M42Junction6@highwaysengland.co.uk to register and will be sent a Microsoft Teams link to join the session.
Face-to-face meetings are also expected to be held in Hampton and Catherine de Barnes in late July, subject to Covid restrictions having been lifted.

Words: David Iriwn, Local Democracy Reporter


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