|The Birmingham Northern Relief Road|
At its nearest point the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, which became the M6 (Toll) Motorway, is less than two miles south of the City of Lichfield.
The following notes have been extracted from the Society's newsletters.
Proposals to provide a new route to the north of the West Midlands conurbation between the M6 near Essington and the M6 near Coleshill are being examined by a group of Society members.
The Department of Transport has produced some very clear literature about the alternative routes, none of which would physically affect any part of the City directly, but the bringing nearer to the City of a fast arterial highway could, in the longer term, have both an economic and an environmental effect. Growth and economic attractiveness are inter-related.
Construction work could begin about 1990 and the new road will take two or three years to construct. These time scales often dull out awareness and we wake up too late.
In the June issue of the newsletter we reported that the Society was considering the proposals as published by the Department of Transport. In considering this most important matter the Society's Committee has been greatly assisted by Mike Tole who produced a paper on what alternatives are being proposed. The committee has decided to note the Department of Transport's proposals, then when the route is chosen next year we shall invite a representative of the Local Authority to address the Society on the implications of the chosen route, with a view to providing the groundwork for a possible appearance at the later Public Inquiry. Members will be kept informed.
Few will rejoice at the need for this new motorway, many will be relieved that they are not to suffer environmental detriment, but those who will suffer deserve not only our sympathy but our support for their misfortune to be minimised and their compensation to be entirely adequate. The effect upon Lichfield is said to be economically beneficial; the cost in other terms is impossible to quantify.
On the 28th July 1997 the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions announced his decision on the Birmingham Northern Relief Road following Public Enquiries held between June 1994 and October 1995. The Civic Society objected to the building of this road; but the Secretary of State has now given his authority for the scheme to proceed.
That he has done so is hardly surprising - there was an inevitability that the road would go ahead, particularly once the Government had determined that the cost would be borne by the private sector and not the public purse. Having said that, the Inspector came down strongly in favour of the need for additional highway capacity to cope with existing and future traffic movements between the North West and South West (sic). He is of the opinion that the need can best be met by the construction of the Northern Birmingham Relief Road and that the alternative upgrading of the existing highway network would not be economically viable and environmentally more damaging.
The new road will be 44km in length and will be operated as a toll motorway by Midland Expressway Ltd. It will be a dual 3-lane motorway which in the vicinity of Lichfield will broadly follow a line close to the existing A5 corridor. The most immediate effect will be the disruption caused during the construction period which is expected to last for three years from a commencement date which is yet to be announced. There will be a minor re-alignment of the A461 Walsall Road just beyond Muckley Corner. To the north of Shenstone there will be a 'half' junction allowing westbound traffic to join the BNRR from the A5127 and eastbound traffic to leave by way of a slip road on which there will be a toll station. It is intended to construct a full junction at Weeford with connections to the A5/A38 roundabout. Here there will be a toll station, a building for toll control purposes and a maintenance compound.
The new road will certainly transform the environment as we know it today, being especially disruptive in the early years before the landscaping has matured. What is less certain are the answers to such questions as: "Will the road fulfil the purposes for which it was designed ?", "Will it attract additional traffic not anticipated in the forecasts ?", "What are the implications for the restoration of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals ?", "Will the noise and air pollution abatement measures be as effective as predicted ?" and "What pressures on new development in Lichfield will arise as a result of the road's existence and how strong will the Planning Authority be in resisting such pressures ?".
Only time will tell.