STAKEOUTS: Villagers’ anger over HS2 lorries
Villagers who carried out 11-hour stakeouts of roads in Solihull have accused HS2 of riding roughshod over planning rules.
Pairs of residents took it in turns to keep watch over the Waste Lane area, in Balsall Common, amid allegations far more lorries are using the rural lanes than should be.
The traffic surveys found that on one day there were in excess of 100 movements, more than four times as many as the 24 allowed under the HS2 Act – the legislation which underpins the scheme.
This has led campaigners to accuse contractors of openly defying the council’s refusal of planning permission in late July.
Had a HS2 application been granted approval it would have enabled more intensive use of the route, but the committee had unanimously agreed the proposals weren’t fit for purpose.
Although approached for comment this week, the firm maintained that its operations stuck to the “specified limits”.
Balsall Common resident Andrew Burrow, among those sat in deckchairs at the roadside during the three day exercise, said that villagers had acted in response to complaints that the decision had been ignored.
He said it was impossible to prove whether activity had ramped up following the decision session – since there was no data from beforehand – but that the figures from the middle of last month showed a failure to stick by the rules.
“There was a lot of Facebook chatter and people contacting me saying ‘hang on, I thought it had been rejected’.
“[For] most of the rest of the population if planning permission is turned down you follow the rules … they don’t just carry on regardless.
“And that’s a bit of a shock to most people, that a nationalised industry, an instrument of the state, would somehow not seem to be bound by the same rules as the rest of us.”
Increased use of Waste Lane and neighbouring roads had been blocked by Solihull’s planning committee, amid serious concerns about the suitability of narrow highways.
A separate plan to use Hallmeadow Road was approved at the same meeting, although it was the original intention to switch to this stretch as the construction was ramped up.
Mr Burrow said residents were particularly worried about the safety of schoolchildren using often slender pavements on the Waste Lane route.
Between 7.30am-6.30pm, 107 trucks were recorded on Wednesday, August 18.
The day before 96 were clocked, while on the Friday of the same week 86 had been recorded.
Registration numbers and photos have been passed to Solihull Council’s planning enforcement team, with calls for action to be taken over the alleged breach.
“We are looking to Solihull Council to do what they can do, but we also want HS2 to do what they should do,” added Mr Burrow.
Meriden ward councillor Diane Howell (Con) had also taken part in some of the surveys and has flagged the issue with the local authority.
She said that during the decision session on July 29, it was stated that work crews would be limited to two dozen lorry movements a day if planning approval wasn’t granted.
“I am totally dismayed that, despite permission being refused, we are seeing up to four times this number of large goods vehicles travelling down these residential roads.
“It is not acceptable that our community is being treated in this way and I would like some answers from HS2.
“This whole situation is causing distress to local residents and it is eroding trust in HS2.
“HS2 talk about being a good neighbour but I have yet to see evidence of this.”
An HS2 spokeswoman said: “HS2 takes its responsibility to impacted communities very seriously, and we try to minimise disruption wherever possible.
“Our lorry movements are within the specified limits for each of the five compounds being operated in this area.”
The sites in question stretch between Burton Green, Warwickshire, and the West Coast Mainline near Berkswell Station and crews are said to be using the full range to continue to progress the project.
A statement also confirmed a formal appeal has gone in following the refusal of planning permission around a month ago.
Solihull Council has also been approached for comment about the data passed on by residents.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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