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Transport Secretary backs Birmingham tram extension scheme despite heritage concerns

Published: Thursday, 26th May 2016

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin goes against recommendation of a planning inspector and renews compulsory purchase powers for Centro…

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has gone against the recommendation of a planning inspector and approved a planning direction and renewed compulsory purchase powers for Centro, the passenger transport executive for the West Midlands.

The powers and planning direction were required for the extension of the Midland Metro tram system between New Street Station and Centenary Square in Birmingham City Centre, the subject of a Transport and Works Act Order.

The inspector had recommended that the applications should not go ahead because the proposed route would “pass through the civic heart of Birmingham, which contains its most important 19th century civic buildings.” The inspector cited harm to listed buildings like the Grade 1 listed Town Hall as well as “the settings of listed buildings, and the character and appearance of the Colmore Row and Environs Conservation Area”.

The inspector said the threats were so substantial that they outweighed the important transportation and economic benefits of the extension.

McLoughlin disagreed. He acknowledged there would be harm to heritage assets but argued that significant weight had not been given to the benefits of the proposed extension in terms of improving accessibility and connectivity, reducing traffic congestion and supporting economic growth.

The SoS claimed the scheme would facilitate sustainable development “a fundamental aim of national planning policy”.

McLoughlin also argued that refusing the Order and planning direction would mean a likely delay of four years on the delivery of the extension to Centenary Square while the feasibility of an alternative option was investigated and promoted.

His decision letter went on to conclude that it was “in the public interest” to authorise the Order and the planning direction.

View the decision

Roger Milne