- West Midlands Interchange is a proposal for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) of up to 743,200 square metres (sq m) of rail-served and rail-linked warehousing and associated development;
- The site is approximately 297 hectares. It lies either side of a branch of the West Coast Main Line and is bounded by the A449 to the west and the A5 to the north where it meets Junction 12 of the M6;
- A new SRFI in the North Black Country/South Staffordshire area is something that has long been identified as essential for the future prosperity of the West Midlands region to help businesses compete in national and international business markets;
- West Midlands Interchange is being promoted by Four Ashes Limited – a consortium led by Kilbride Holdings. Kilbride Holdings is working in partnership with privately owned international property group, Grosvenor Group, which is providing funding, and Piers Monckton, the majority landowner. The Kilbride Holdings team has developed rail-based projects for Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood and Castle Bromwich, and Honda as well as a number of infrastructure-led developments in the UK.
Q. What is the project?
Four Ashes Limited proposes to build a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange, with warehousing and associated development to serve the West Midlands’ strong manufacturing and logistics industrial base.
Q. What are the benefits of the project?
West Midlands Interchange will support both the Midlands Engine and the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy to help deliver economic growth for the West Midlands and nationally:
- Helping to make businesses competitive at home and abroad through more reliable and efficient rail freight links and logistics facilities;
- Generating an expected £427m of local economic activity each year;
- Creating £912m of national economic activity each year through the supply chain.
It will help reduce carbon emissions and ease congestion in the region and nationally:
- Supporting the Government’s policy to create a national network of SRFIs and encouraging the shift of goods from road to rail – rail freight produces 70% less carbon dioxide, up to 15 times lower nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly 90% lower particulate emissions than road freight tonne for tonne;
- Reducing HGV journeys – conservatively estimated at 50 million HGV kilometres each year when fully operational.
And it will boost opportunities for people in South Staffordshire, The Black Country, the West Midlands and other surrounding areas:
- Creating 8,550 direct, full-time jobs, of which an estimated 40% of jobs will be higher skilled and administrative positions, and representing 17% of the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s new jobs target to 2030;
- Offering upskilling and training for local people to benefit from new jobs;
- With spending estimated to support a further 8,100 indirect and induced jobs in the UK economy.
Q. Who is the promoter?
West Midlands Interchange is being promoted by Four Ashes Limited – a consortium led by Kilbride Holdings.
Kilbride Holdings is working in partnership with privately owned international property group, Grosvenor Group, which is providing funding, and Piers Monckton, the majority landowner. The Kilbride Holdings team has developed rail-based projects for Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood and Castle Bromwich, and Honda as well as a number of infrastructure-led developments in the UK.
Q. Why is the project needed?
A new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange is something that has been identified as essential for the future prosperity of South Staffordshire, the Black Country and West Midlands region since 2004. The West Midlands’ strong manufacturing and logistics industrial base is growing, and there is a shortage of suitable quality development land for large scale rail-served logistics warehousing. Fast, reliable transport links are needed to help the region’s businesses compete in national and international business markets.
Q. Why rail?
The Government’s vision is for the UK to have a transport system which drives economic growth and social development, and policy encourages the shift of transport of goods from road to rail to help realise its vision. Increased rail freight transport helps reduce carbon emissions and business efficiencies providing economic benefits. Tonne for tonne, rail freight produces 70% less carbon dioxide (National Networks National Policy Statement, 2014), up to 15 times less nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly 10 times less particulate emissions than road freight.
It also eases congestion by reducing HGV journeys across the UK (National Networks National Policy Statement, 2014).
Q. Why not just use existing rail terminals?
The forecast growth in rail freight, together with the need for sites large enough to accommodate continuous working arrangements and large structures – being not only locations for freight access to the railway but also locations for businesses to use the railway – means it is neither viable nor desirable to rely on existing rail freight interchanges, road based logistics or on a larger number of smaller rail freight interchanges.
Q. What will it mean for jobs?
WMI will create 8,550 direct, full-time jobs, 40% of which will be higher skilled and administrative positions offering opportunities for people in South Staffordshire, The Black Country, the West Midlands and surrounding areas. WMI will also provide upskilling and training opportunities for local people.
It is also estimated that spending will support a further 8,100 indirect and induced jobs in the UK economy through the distribution chain and across a broad spectrum of business sectors.
Salaries in the logistics industry are above the national average and rising faster than the national average. Companies in the logistics sector invest substantially in their workforce, often training individuals for engineering roles and offering apprenticeships.
Q. Where exactly is the site?
The site is approximately 297 hectares. It lies either side of a branch of the West Coast Main Line and is bounded by the A449 to the west and the A5 to the north where it meets the M6 at junction 12, bringing all the connectivity benefits of the national road network and main railway line but without the capacity constraints imposed by the greater train numbers and train speeds on the main line itself.
Q. Why have you chosen this site?
The North Black Country/South Staffordshire area was identified as one of the best locations in the West Midlands for an SRFI as early as 2004.
It is uniquely situated to meet the long-outstanding need for a large-scale SRFI in this area because:
- It is located adjacent to the strategic road network and intersected by the strategic rail freight network next to both a national rail and road network and close to the business and consumer markets it needs to serve;
- The site is on one of a very few routes in the UK with the right road and rail access to allow the bigger sized 9’ 6” containers to be moved on the rail network to the rail terminal;
- It has the space needed for large structures, freight access and the location for businesses to develop; and,
- It meets specific pressing local needs for rail-served facilities and warehousing across the West Midlands, particularly the Black Country, Staffordshire, and Birmingham, the northern M6 corridor and parts of Warwickshire.
Q. Have you looked at other sites for the project?
Before bringing forward the scheme, a thorough review of potential sites for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) in the West Midlands area was carried out. This review showed that the Four Ashes site is the only site within the area of need suitable for a large-scale SRFI serving this area.
- The need for a SRFI or a rail-served logistics site in this area has been identified by the planning authorities as long ago as 2004, but no suitable sites have been found;
- The particular need was identified by the authorities in South Staffordshire and the Black Country. The Black Country Core Strategy (2011) confirmed that no sites of a suitable size were available;
- Four Ashes Limited (FAL) investigated the potential of a wide range of sites before bringing forward a scheme at the Four Ashes location;
- A further review of the decision by FAL set out in the Alternative Sites Assessment reached the same conclusion;
- There are no other sites which meet the requirement for a large-scale SRFI to serve the West Midlands, the Black Country and the South Staffordshire.
Our Alternative Sites Assessment is part of our DCO application, which is now available to view and download on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.
Q. How have you involved the community and other stakeholders?
Four Ashes Limited has engaged and consulted with local residents, businesses, the wider community and other stakeholders since April 2016 when the proposed scheme was announced, and throughout the pre-application phase of the scheme’s development.
The first stage of consultation was held from 13 June to 24 July 2016 and focused on our master plan options. The second stage of consultation ran between 5 July and 30 August 2017 on detailed plans of the scheme. A further round of focused consultation on specific scheme amendments was held between 27 November 2017 and 2 January 2018.
We have read and considered every written response and comment you gave us as part of these consultations and, together with the results of surveys and assessments, used this information to review and improve our scheme.
You can read about the changes we have made in response to feedback in the Consultation Report we submitted with our DCO application on 3 August 2018. The full application is now available to view and download on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.
Documents for all stages of consultation can be found in the Document library.
Q. Who will give permission for the project?
Due to its national significance, West Midlands Interchange will require a specific type of planning permission known as a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the Secretary of State for Transport.
We submitted our DCO application to the Planning Inspectorate on 3 August 2018. The Planning Inspectorate has 28 days to decide whether the application will is ready to be accepted for Examination and if so, it will set a timetable for a detailed examination of the application, in which stakeholders and the public can participate. Examination will take up to 6 months.
The Planning Inspectorate then has 3 months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who then has a further 3 months to make a decision.
Q. What’s happening now?
We submitted a Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspectorate on 3 August 2018. The Planning Inspectorate has 28 days to review our application and decide whether to accept it for examination.
Q. What happens next?
If accepted, the Planning Inspectorate will set a timetable for examination of the application in which stakeholders and the public can participate. The Examination will take up to 6 months. The Planning Inspectorate then has 3 months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who then has a further 3 months to make a decision.
Q. When would the project be built?
We expect a decision on the application to be made in 2019. If consented, we expect construction to start in 2020.
Q. Who decides whether or not the project can go ahead?
West Midlands Interchange is classified as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’, defined by the Planning Act 2008. This classification means that neither South Staffordshire Council nor Staffordshire County Council determine the planning application. Instead, an application for a Development Consent Order was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 3 August 2018. If accepted for examination, the Secretary of State for Transport will ultimately make the decision whether to grant the Development Consent Order.
More information about National Infrastructure Planning can be found here.
Q. What changes have been made to the scheme following Stage 2 statutory and Stage 2a focused consultation?
The principal changes made to the scheme as a result of written feedback we received during these consultations and ongoing engagement, are that:
- Additional land has been brought into the scheme to improve the connectivity of Calf Heath Community Park;
- A small parcel of additional land has been brought into the scheme to the north of the A5 to allow for works to be carried out on electrical infrastructure;
- A 100m wide dark ‘ecological corridor’ was introduced for bats and other wildlife, running from the Reservoir to Calf Heath Wood;
- The amount of green space across the site was further increased from 33% to 36%;
- The layout of the roundabout to the north of the Bericote Site, the height of the elevated section of the link road and the access to the Four Ashes Industrial Estate have all been amended to improve accessibility; and
- Minor amendments have been made to the red line to avoid small parcels of unnecessary land and part of the Canal.
You can read about these and other changes we have made in the Consultation Report we submitted with our DCO application on 3 August 2018. The full application is now available to view and download on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.
Q. Is this a done deal?
The application will be decided by the Secretary of State for Transport following a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate. In making a recommendation, the Planning Inspectorate will consider all relevant matters regarding the project during the examination process, including evidence from interested parties.
We must demonstrate that the project is in line with the National Networks National Policy Statement, 2014 and that this site is uniquely suited for a SRFI in order to justify development on the Green Belt.