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MIDLAND: Councillors' warning over new runway plans.

Byline: By Campbell Docherty Transport Correspondent

Plans for a new runway at a Midland airport still fail to address property blight and environmental impacts caused by the expansion, councillors warned yesterday.

Solihull Council's Regeneration and Community Safety Scrutiny Board criticised a number of gaps in Birmingham International Airport's Draft Master Plan - aiming to extend the current runway and build a second to meet a predicted tripling of passenger demand during the next 25 years.

The board will tell the Solihull cabinet of its "disappointment and concern" over the lack of detail and mitigation on public transport access and the effect on the already congested M42 of the 32 million passengers per year target by 2030.

Further, it was "extremely concerned" over a lack of detail on environmental impact and mitigation measures.

Thirteen problem areas were identified last year by the council regarding compensation for residents affected by the plans but only one - a wording clarification - had been "adequately" addressed by the airport.

A further three had only been "partially addressed".

The board noted the "continuing inadequacy" of the compensation package and asked BIA to "reconsider the matter once again". The scheme was redrawn last year following a wave of criticism of the first proposals in 2004.

Julian Wain, the council's economic strategy director, had earlier told councillors: "It is quite clear and undoubtedly positive that the Draft Master Plan reduces the environmental impacts compared to previous proposals.

"But I cannot pretend the impacts are not high and it would be invidious to suggest that the amount of people affected is not large."

Richard Heard and Joe Kelly, BIA managing director and finance director respectively, had earlier given presentations at the meeting.

Mr Heard acknowledged the importance of property blight and said this was why BIA was proposing to introduce a compensation package which would start before - and be additional to - the Government's own statutory scheme.

Yesterday's all-day meeting also heard from local MPs and residents concerned over the BIA proposals.

Coun Barbara Harper (Lib- Dem Elmdon) said: "Long term strategies are fine for governments and other corporate bodies but what about the people who have to live with the uncertainty, blight and noise pollution?"

Residents of Elmdon voiced fears over the relocation of a fuel depot just 500 metres from the village, prompting concern over a potential disaster similar to the oil depot explosion in Hertfordshire.

Sandra Beeson, from the Save Elmdon Action Group, told the committee: "Obviously with safety in mind, BIA have chosen to keep the relocation well away from its terminals.

"Should the unthinkable happen parts of Elmdon and Sheldon could be blown off the map."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 21, 2006
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