Residents in a leafy Midland village said their way of life had been destroyed by the “apocalyptic” destruction of ancient woodland for an £280 million M42 motorway upgrade. Familes in Bickenhill, near Solihull, said their rural idyll had been “ripped up” by the building work at nearby junction six.
Trees on Catherine-de-Barnes Road, which leads to the village, have been chopped down to make way for a new slip road designed to ease traffic problems in the area and around Birmingham Airport. But some householders said they had been moved to tears by the destruction.
“It looks so bleak and bare and barren. It was a lovely leafy lane before, and there’s just nothing there now, it’s just one massive building site” Bickenhill resident Sian Manton told BirminghamLive.
“It’s supposed to be a conservation area and greenbelt but it means nothing, what’s the point in having greenbelt if you can just rip it up? It’s so upsetting. A lot of people have said they could cry when they drive down the lane, and you could.
“We’ve got bats around here, that’s got to impact on it.” Fellow villager Greg Drew added: “At one time, we’d pull out of the village, and it would just be trees and bushes all along Catherine-De-Barnes Lane, and now, you can virtually see Catherine-De-Barnes because there’s nothing there.
“I suppose they’ll be re-planting but I don’t think they’re going to plant the amount they’ve taken out. It’s progress, we can’t stop it, but we’re just very disappointed they’ve ripped all the trees out.”
The roar of planes overhead can be heard from across Bickenhill and villagers also expressed concern over high levels of noise pollution now that the protective shield of woodland has been removed. The scheme is a Department of Transport project carried out by National Highways.
Such has been the opposition to the works, a mysterious Banksy style protest piece appeared on hoardings outside the construction site earlier this week.
One couple, who would only be named as Mr and Mrs Woodcook have lived in Bickenhill for 25 years. Mrs Woodcock said: “We’re a forgotten village, everyone is sick to death it’s a disgrace. If we take one tree down in our garden the council is on us like a dose of salts.”
Lisa Storer, a resident who lives in a multi-generation house, said: “Apocalyptic is a good word, you wake up and something has changed. It’s really cut my mum off, she’s nearly 80, she’s getting older, with that daunting road, it’s a change of environment.
“Noise pollution has doubled, you wake up and your car has a layer of dust.” Ms Storer said the works meant the once five-minute drive to her child’s nursery now took 20.
The project aims to enable better movement of traffic on and off the A45, supporting access to Birmingham Airport and Birmingham International railway station as well as preparing capacity for the new HS2 station. The work includes creating a new junction on the M42 and constructing a dual carriageway between the junction and Clock Interchange.
Solihull Council told BirminghamLive it was not directly responsible for the delivery of the project, which is a Department for Transport project being delivered by National Highways.
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‘We’re doing everything we can to protect biodiversity in the area’
A spokesperson for Solihull Council said: “This project is the subject of a development consent order which has been reviewed and determined following (an) extensive public enquiry process.
“The environmental impact referred to was considered at that time and balanced against all the other positive benefits/dis-benefits of the scheme, when the Government’s Planning Inspectorate granted permission for the scheme.”
National Highways told BirminghamLive it was committed to protecting the environment during the “vital” £282m upgrade. National Highways programme leader, Anita Prashar said: “We understand the importance of looking after the local habitat and we’re doing everything we can to protect biodiversity in the area as part of this vital upgrade.
“We are only removing vegetation that is absolutely necessary to allow the construction of the scheme and we’re relocating a number of hedgerows and trees. We’re also working closely with ecologists to protect nesting birds and we have an ecological permit system in place that means specialists carry out an inspection 48 hours prior to the start of work, and again immediately before work starts. If these inspections show any signs of nesting birds, then the work is cancelled until it is safe to be done without causing any harm.”