Protesters set up 'toll booth' outside relief-road hearing

THE INQUIRY into Britain's first toll road opened yesterday at the Methodist Church in Walsall, West Midlands, with a protesters' picket and a toll booth made out of a lavatory tent.

Opponents of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road are angered by both the potential environmental damage it could cause and by the fact that a private company will build and operate it as a toll road, having acquired the land through compulsory purchase.

This is the second public inquiry into the road, but the results of the first, in 1988, have not been made public by the Department of Transport because the scheme to use public funds was withdrawn in favour of plans to build the 27- mile orbital motorway as a toll road. If the project goes ahead, it will be Britain's first new toll road in modern times.

Several schemes around Britain were earmarked as possible toll roads by the Department of Transport, but the others have been dropped through lack of interest from the private sector. The Birmingham Northern Relief Road is being promoted by Midlands Expressway, a company jointly owned by Trafalgar House and an Italian toll road company, Iritecna. The company, chaired by the former Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Parkinson, has a 53-year concession to operate the road.

Midlands Expressway says the road would provide better links in the 'strategic north-west/south- east road corridor', save three or four lives per year in road casualties and provide benefits to local communities in the existing A5/A38 road corridor, reducing pollution and noise.

The company says that the main purpose of the road - from the M6-M42 junction near Coleshill rejoining the M6 at Cannock - is to relieve congestion on the M6. With other new schemes, it would form part of an orbital road around Birmingham. The company would charge about pounds 1.80 for a car, double for a lorry. It hopes the motorway will be completed before the end of the decade.

Objectors say little traffic would be diverted from the M6, while a large amount would be generated by the road. It would also be used by traffic from the proposed Hams Hall freight terminal, near Coleshill, which will be used for Channel tunnel traffic and other freight which objectors say would generate 20,000 vehicles a day.

The objectors point to the considerable environmental effects, as the road would involve damaging two Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Chasewater Heath and the River Blythe, and would require the compulsory purchase of 1,374 acres of land.

The inquiry is due to last at least nine months and the findings will probably not be published until next autumn.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas