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Washwood Heath HS2 depot will hamper job creation and is ‘the most grim of scenarios’, claims MP

Washwood Heath HS2 depot will hamper job creation and is ‘the most grim of scenarios’, claims MP

🕔18.Jun 2014

A huge vacant industrial site at Washwood Heath which has been earmarked as an HS2 maintenance depot could be used instead to create 7,000 jobs with direct access to the M6 north of Birmingham.

City MPs have joined forces in an attempt to persuade the Government to drop plans for the high speed rail depot, which would create only 640 jobs.

Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne told a Westminster Hall Commons debate that it would be a “big mistake” to tie up the land for a decade before HS2 is built.

He was joined in a rare cross-party consensus by the Labour MPs for Erdington and Perry Barr, Jack Dromey and Khalid Mahmood, Sutton Coldfield Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell and Solihull Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt.

Mr Byrne said it would be “the most grim of scenarios” if the land, once home to LDV Vans, was to lie undeveloped until 2026, when HS2 is expected to begin running. There were other sites in the Midlands where a marshalling yard could be built.

The land, the size of 100 football pitches, is one of the largest industrial sites in the West Midlands and makes up one-third of available development land in Birmingham.

If fully developed, it would provide £5 million a year in business rates to Birmingham City Council.

Mr Byrne argued that the 7,000 jobs created if his proposal was accepted would save £35 million a year in unemployment benefit payments.

He pointed out that the land, which lies at the junction of Ladywood, Erdington and Hodge Hill, is the centre of an unemployment blackspot. The three constituencies together are home to 45 per cent of Birmingham’s unemployed.

Mr Byrne added: “I am a supporter of HS2 but we’ve got to get it right for everyone in our city – not just for some.

“This gigantic site has come together like a giant jigsaw puzzle for the first time in 100 years. Developing the site as a whole could create between 5,000 and 7,000 jobs in the short term. That would be a huge boost to the worst unemployment hotspot in Britain.

“What today’s debate is all about is simple. If HS2 destroys our best chance in a generation to get our community back to work, then they need to show just how they will create a similar number of jobs in the short term – not in ten years’ time.”

Junior Transport Minister Robert Goodwill gave little indication that the Government would change its mind. He said Washwood Heath had been identified as the best location for the HS2 marshalling yard after a “vigorous” process.

The yard would kickstart further regeneration in the local area, he added.

He pointed out that 60 acres of land at Washwood Heath not required for HS2 would be available for industrial development.

Mr Goodwill said he did not accept Mr Byrne’s calculation that the site could be used to create as many as 7,000 jobs. The maximum likely figure was about 3,500 jobs, he said.

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