An application for a Development Consent Order (DCO), submitted by Four Ashes Limited (FAL) for the West Midlands Interchange (WMI), a proposed new strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) in South Staffordshire, is to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).
The WMI proposals directly respond to national strategy and the needs of the region comprising the West Midlands, the North Black Country and South Staffordshire. The North Black country/South Staffordshire area has been identified as one of the best locations in the West Midlands for an SRFI since 2004.
The proposed scheme has been designed to increase the efficiency of freight distribution, taking freight traffic off motorways and trunk roads and onto the rail network. This will also reduce CO2 emissions emitted by freight transport; rail freight produces up to 70% less CO2 and up to 15 times lower noxious emissions than road freight tonne for tonne.
The site is uniquely located for an SRFI in this part of the West Midlands. The proposed development includes up to 743,200 square metres of warehousing is adjacent to Junction 12 of the M6. The site will have direct connections to the West Coast Mainline, one of the few routes in the UK that can accommodate the transfer of larger 9’6” freight containers between road and rail.
The Four Ashes site has also been identified for its potential to boost economic growth through its location in the M54 Wolverhampton – Staffordshire High Growth Zone. It supports both the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy and the ‘Midlands Engine’, which together aim to help deliver a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people in the West Midlands and throughout the UK.
As well as helping to attract more global business and investment, the scheme will create 8,550 direct jobs, boosting opportunities for people in South Staffordshire, the Black Country and other surrounding areas. It is expected to generate £427m of local economic activity each year and, through the supply chain, create £912m per annum of economic activity nationally.
As the WMI proposal constitutes a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, it is considered under the Planning Act 2008 rather than the normal town and country planning route, meaning FAL has applied for a DCO from the Secretary of State for Transport.
The DCO application was submitted to PINS on 03 August 2018. After a 21 day assessment period, PINS has concluded that the application has met its standards and the application will now go forward for examination.
The Examination process will now be led by PINS, and further information can be found on its website. PINS will invite stakeholders and the public to register their interest in participating in the examination. PINS will then set a timetable for the examination which is expected to last six months starting with a preliminary meeting, at which those who have registered will be invited to attend.
The submission documents and further information on the PINS process can be found on the PINS website here: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/west-midlands/west-midlands-interchange/