THE GREEN light has been given to widen a rural road junction near Eccleshall ahead of a major rail improvement project despite residents’ concerns the application has been submitted too early.
Network Rail is still awaiting a develop- ment consent order (planning permis- sion for a major infrastructure project) from the Secretary of State for Transport for the proposed rail flyover at Norton Bridge.
The work is the third phase of a £250m project to increase capacity and speeds and relieve a bottleneck along the busy West Coast Main Line and the DCO decision is expected in spring 2014.
Anexistinggaspipelineneedstobe diverted as part of the work and on Friday Stafford Borough Council approved plans to assist the diversion work.
These include the widening of a 100m stretch of Chebsey Lane and its junction with the B5026 Eccleshall Road, a tempo- rary works compound, temporary haul roads and a temporary bailey bridge to span the River Sow on land west of Norton Bridge.
Chebsey Parish Council objected to the application, saying that the application was premature coming before the DCO decision. Residents also raised this concern, alongside harm to the countryside and conservation area.
But Friday’s planning committee was told that the proposed haul road, initially intended to pass through a wooded area known as Yelds Rough, had been diverted following concerns about the loss of trees.
Malcolm Armstrong, speaking on behalf of Network Rail, said 27 trees could have been lost at the site “in the worst case” if the initial haul road through Yelds Rough had gone ahead, but this had been reduced to a maximum of 15 trees by the diversion.
He said that six ponds had already been created in the area to relocate local great crested newts - a protected species - before work began.
Putting off this application until the DCO decision in spring 2014 risked delay- ing the National Grid’s work to divert the gas pipeline, he added, as it was intended to take place in August and September when “lower demand means the lowest gas pressure”.