Campaign for Rail, along with other transport groups, is celebrating after a planning application, which would have threatened a major new rail link, was thrown out by Birmingham City Council Planning and Development Committee on Thursday 13 February. The application involved building a mixed housing, hotel and commercial development on the site of the old Sulzer factory in Camp Hill on land adjacent to the Moor Street to Tyseley line at Bordesley station and close to where the Camp Hill railway line crosses this line. If built, it would have encroached on the alignment of the proposed Camp Hill chords which will connect the two railway lines and enable a frequent service to operate to the new stations at Moseley, King’s Heath and Hazelwell and the proposed future station at Balsall Heath.
Campaign for Rail was alerted to the planning application on 6 February 2019 and only had 12 days to respond before the consultation period closed on 18 February 2019. However, it did so vigorously on three fronts – by issuing a press release, by writing to every Birmingham city councillor and by formally objecting to the planning application. Of course, Campaign for Rail was certainly not alone in objecting with transport authorities West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE), Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Metro Mayor Andy Street and Midlands Connect providing considerable weight along with fellow transport pressure groups Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), Shakespeare Line Protection Group (SLPG) and Solihull and Leamington Rail Users Association (SALRUA).
17 February 2020
A Victory for Common Sense
As a result of the initial objections, the developers made minor changes to their plans to move the building closest to the line further from the alignment, but objectors considered that this revision still threatened the building of the Camp Hill chords.
On 5 December 2019, the Planning Officer’s report recommended approving the application subject to a Section 106 legal agreement. The report stated that Network Rail (NR) had welcomed the amendments to the application and had raised no objections to the scheme and that the rail bodies that had raised objections (WMRE, WMCA, TfWM, Midlands Connect) were not statutory consultees. That status was held by Network Rail. A cynic might say that, if you want to avoid doing something, you throw as many obstacles as you can in the way.
The Planning Officer concluded “To reiterate there is a lack of certainty regarding the implementation of the Camp Hill chords due to absence of committed funding, no safeguarded land within the BDP and no definitive route alignment or information relating to land take for construction or operating purposes. Hence Network Rail have not objected to the scheme. The applicants have revised the layout of the plans to potentially provide less conflict with the route if and when Chords come forward. As such there is little evidence to indicate that the current proposals for development would definitely prejudice their delivery and on this basis there is no robust reason to refuse or defer determining the current application.”
Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and the application was rejected on 13 February on the grounds that “the proposed development may prejudice the delivery, in terms of its construction and operation, the South West Camp Hill Chord; a proposal to enhance the City's rail network and part of the wider Midlands Rail Hub project”.
Thus, Campaign for Rail is pleased that they were able to contribute to this decision while another national rail pressure group was conspicuous by its absence from the list of objectors. With subscription charges a lot less than some other groups at just £10 per year, CfR does exactly what it says on the tin – it campaigns for rail. By doing so in this case, it has ensured that a very important new Rail link still has a future.