Plans approved for new eco-friendly HS2 station in Solihull

Plans for a new eco-friendly High Speed Two (HS2) station in Solihull have been approved, despite concerns about the scheme's potential impact on a nearby regeneration scheme and on lighting levels in the area.

A visualisation of the new HS2 Interchange station in Solihull (Pic: HS2 Ltd)
A visualisation of the new HS2 Interchange station in Solihull (Pic: HS2 Ltd)

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council this week approved the application by HS2 Ltd, the government company tasked with delivering the project, for a station serving the Midlands with five high-speed trains per hour.

According to HS2 Ltd, the proposed designs would make it the first railway station in the world to achieve the BREEAM ‘outstanding’ certification – a measure of sustainability for new buildings.

The station is designed to be carbon neutral, using natural ventilation, daylight, harvested rainwater and solar energy. One of its key features is an ‘automated people mover’ linking to the NEC, Birmingham International Station and Birmingham Airport, with a service every three minutes along a 2.3km route.

In their report to the committee, planning officers highlighted the potential "significant impact" of the station outside of its immediate vicinity.

According to the report, the development of three long-stay car parks to serve the station, totalling 7,269 spaces, was of concern to the developer of Arden Cross, a 140-hectare mixed-use development next to the proposed new station. Consultation for the development, which aims to create 3,000 new homes and up to 27,000 jobs, has just begun.

Arden Cross Ltd raised concerns that works associated with providing the long-stay parking will “prejudice, sterilise and fail to protect” its development opportunity.

Planning officers said this concern carries “more than limited weigh, but falls short of significant weight given the relative infancy of the proposals”.

Officers also agreed that long stay car parking with up to 7,500 spaces on green belt land would have “some impact on the visual appearance of the surrounding area”, including the impact of continuous lighting at night in a previously largely unlit location.

A lighting assessment concluded that the lighting would not pose an issue to roosting or bat commuting routes, nor would it obtrude in nearby Grade II* Listed Park Farm or Packington Hall.

The green design of the car parks as a series of parking ‘fields’ with native hedges and trees was welcomed as they are designed to contribute directly to the environmental requirements of the scheme and enable new habitat creation.

It was also agreed that any tree, hedge or shrub which is lost during development works should be replaced in an effort to retain the character of the landscape.

Officers wrote that the scheme's design "draws upon the historic and agricultural character of the Warwickshire Arden landscape to establish a strong sense of place and identity through its architectural form and the design of its landscape".

HS2 Ltd’s stations director Matthew Botelle said: “The operation of our stations will play a key role in the UK’s fight against climate change and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Our architects and engineers have worked together with landscape architects, soil scientists, ecologists and water specialists to develop a truly unique, landscape-led, contextual proposition which draws on the local Arden setting for its inspiration, with lots of new habitats for wildlife.”

The application for the station was made under schedule 17 of the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Act 2017, rather than the traditional Town and Country Planning Act 1990 route.

A second application, also lodged under schedule 17, was consented by this week's committee for the people mover system.

Meanwhile, the long stay car parking was the subject of a further reserved matters application, which was also approved.

According to HS2 Ltd, construction is due to start in 2024.

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