Government roads agency Highways England submitted a development consent order (DCO) application for the nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP).
It proposes the construction of a dual carriageway between the A45 Clock Interchange near Brimingham Airport and a new junction six of the M42, north of Solihull Road, plus a series of further works intended to increase the capacity of junction six.
According to the decision letter from Shapps, the "majority of the order limits is contained entirely within Green Belt land".
Advising of his decision, Shapps described M42 junction six as “one of the busiest” on the UK’s strategic road network and said several development projects would be “in jeopardy” if capacity is not improved.
The transport secretary advised that the government's National Networks National Policy Statement provided a presumption in favour of granting development consent for the project.
In addition, Shapps said the government’s Road Investment Strategy identifies an upgrade to M42 junction six as a means of improving access to Birmingham Airport and a proposed HS2 station at Solihull.
At the NSIP's examination, inspectors David Cullingford and Richard Jones found the project would represent inappropriate development in the green belt but advised that the necessary "very special circumstances" existed to justify the development.
The inspectors found that the project would result in “significant adverse impacts” on the landscape and “moderate to slight adverse effects” on the historic landscape.
They advised that the project would fail to preserve the setting of five listed buildings, although the magnitude of harm was described as “less than substantial”.
Harm from the loss of ancient woodland and agricultural land was also identified.
However, the inspectors said the project “accords with government policy to deliver national networks that meet the country’s long-term need” and resulting improvements to the road network were “a strongly positive consideration” in favour of granting consent.
Shapps accepted the view of examining inspectors that very special circumstances exist to justify development of a green belt site and granted government agency Highways England a development consent order allowing the project to go ahead.
Jonathan Pizzey, senior project manager at Highways England, said the decision “represents a major step forward in developing a scheme to unlock congestion and promote economic growth in the West Midlands”.
He added: “The M42 is an important strategic route. Upgrading junction six will increase capacity, enhance safety and support planned development, improving access to HS2, the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham Airport and future developments such as UK Central Solihull.”
Yesterday, Planning reported that Highways England had revealed its preferred options for a series of upgrades to the A66 between North Yorkshire and Cumbria, including proposals for five new bypasses and dualling its single carriageway sections.