Aspect Ecology has attended our first live (in person) public inquiry since lockdown began. After moving the public inquiry system to a virtual platform in 2020 the Planning Inspectorate has resumed face to face public inquiries. However, the benefits of the virtual system developed during lockdown, including the option to watch and contribute via video link, and the largely paperless (or at least very much reduced) process have been retained which is very welcome from an environmental perspective as well as moving the system forward into the 21st century.
Alistair Baxter (Senior Director) presented evidence to the inquiry on proposals for a motorway service area on the M42 located adjacent to the recently approved new motorway junction at Solihull (J5A – nationally significant infrastructure project via development consent order (DCO)). The inquiry was conjoined with two competing sites assessed through the inquiry process. Ecological issues related to a SSSI, ancient woodland and biodiversity net gain. The site Aspect Ecology is supporting is proposing a 77% net gain for biodiversity and the positive restoration of re-planted ancient woodland to semi-natural broadleaved woodlands which will be managed for the benefit of nature conservation over the long term. Accordingly, the ecological benefits of the scheme are significant.
This inquiry follows on the heels of a similar public inquiry where Alistair presented evidence in regard to a proposed motorway service area on the M25 (West) in August 2021 where similar issues were under discussion.
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