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HS2 depot plan will force council to ‘concrete over’ Sutton Coldfield green belt, claims Birmingham MP

HS2 depot plan will force council to ‘concrete over’ Sutton Coldfield green belt, claims Birmingham MP

🕔03.Sep 2014

Vast tracts of Sutton Coldfield’s green belt will have to be used for industrial development if the opportunity to build on a 55 hectare inner city site at Washwood Heath is lost to HS2, a Birmingham MP has claimed.

Liam Byrne told the House of Commons High Speed Rail Bill Committee that Birmingham city council would be forced to look elsewhere for job creation if a proposal to use most of the former LDV Vans site for an HS2 marshalling yard and construction centre is approved.

The site represents one third of the available industrial development land in Birmingham. Most of the city’s green belt land is in the Sutton Coldfield constituency and would have to be “clawed back” and built on, Mr Byrne stated.

The result would be to “concrete over” the Sutton countryside “destroying one of the most beautiful parts of Birmingham”.

Mr Byrne was backing efforts by the owners of part of the Washwood Heath site – Friends Life and Axa Real Estate – to move the HS2 depot to an alternative location at either Birmingham International or Chelmsley Wood.

It’s claimed by the city council that the land at Washwood Heath could be used to generate as many as 7,000 new jobs if it is not required by the high speed rail company.

If the HS2 depot is approved, fewer than 700 jobs will be created and only 16 hectares will eventually be released to Birmingham city council for future development.

Mr Byrne described the HS2 company’s proposal to use Washwood Heath for a depot as “crazy”.

It would destroy a once in a century opportunity to regenerate the largest vacant site in Birmingham and bring thousands of jobs to an area of high unemployment and deprivation.

Mr Byrne said: “My job is to try to ensure that HS2 is a boost for east Birmingham, not a battering.

“This will damage east Birmingham irreparably for at least 100 years.”

He pointed out that 1,300 existing jobs will be lost almost immediately because firms already occupying a small part of the Washwood Heath site will have to relocate out of Birmingham to make way for HS2’s needs.

David Elvin QC, for Friends Life and Axa, said: “This site lies in one of the greatest areas of deprivation in the country with the highest youth unemployment.

“Our concern is that by locating the depot there you have the loss of the most significant employment site in Birmingham.”

He pointed out that an HS2 options exercise had identified an alternative site for the depot at Birmingham International, close to the proposed HS2 interchange station which would be £100 million cheaper to develop than Washwood Heath. The land has been earmarked as a car park for the HS2 station.

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