Loop rail line to cut through green belt

Network Rail was successful in gaining a development consent order for a new loop rail line for Redditch in the green belt in Worcestershire, the secretary of state for transport agreeing with the examining authority that there was a clear need for the scheme.

The purpose of the scheme was to allow trains to pass each other, enabling an increase in train frequency from two to three trains per hour on a branch line. The secretary of state agreed with the examining authority that the scheme would deliver the need identified in the West Midlands route utilisation strategy, both to accommodate future demand and to improve the reliability of the service. He further agreed that, in providing for an increase in the use of sustainable transport in the short and long term, the project was consistent with government transport and planning policies.

Taking into account the strong support for the scheme in the local impact reports of the county council and district council, in particular to meet increasing demand for train services as a result of planned housing developments, he also agreed with the examining authority’s conclusion that there was a clear need for the scheme.

Having regard to the permanent effects of the scheme on the openness of the green belt, particularly a new footbridge, lift towers and station platform and the alterations to overhead lines, it should be classed as inappropriate development, the secretary of state decided. However, he ruled that the need for the scheme comprised very special circumstances which would clearly outweigh the harm caused to the green belt.

The secretary of state was satisfied that there would be no significant adverse impact on nature conservation as a result of the scheme. In respect of operational noise, he noted that the likely increase in train services was predicted to result in a minor impact on properties closest to the line between two settlements but agreed that the harm likely to be caused was not sufficient to justify refusing consent for the scheme.

He further agreed with the examining authority that a requirement to carry out improvements to the station car park to ensure that it could be fully used to its advertised capacity was reasonably related to the proposed development and should be included in the order.

The new loop ran through agricultural land characterised by fields with isolated properties and farmsteads and small areas of woodland and hedgerows. Like the examining authority, the secretary of state recognised that such a scheme would inevitably have an adverse effect on the landscape character until screening as a result of replanting had matured.

However, he found that in the medium to long term the changes brought about by the scheme would have a slight adverse effect overall on the landscape character and that this was not such as to merit refusing consent for the scheme.

Examining Authority Helen Adlard; Hearings

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